Types of Breast Cancer

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In breast cancer, cancerous cells form inside breast tissue. There are several types of this disease:

  • Ductal carcinoma begins in the cells of the breast ducts. It is the most common type of breast cancer. If the cancer remains in the ducts, it is called Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). If it spreads into the breast, it is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
  • Lobular carcinoma begins in the cells of the breast lobes or lobules and spreads into the breast.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin. This makes the breast warm, red, and swollen. The skin of the breast may also look dimpled.
  • Angiosarcoma of the breast is a rare cancer that begins in the cells of the blood vessels or lymph vessels.
  • Pagets disease of nipple is when cancer cells collect in or around the nipple.

Signs & Symptoms

These could be signs of breast cancer:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or armpit
  • Dimples or puckering of the breast skin
  • A nipple turned inward toward the breast
  • Fluid from the nipple that is not breast milk, especially if it is bloody
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the nipple, areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple), or breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast

These symptoms can also be a sign of other health problems. If you notice any of these, see your doctor as soon as possible. Sometimes there are no signs of breast cancer and the cancer is detected with breast imaging. This is why we recommend women get yearly mammograms.

Learn more about breast cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Images of the Breast

anatomical drawing of the female breast
Anatomy of the female breast. The nipple and areola are shown on the outside of the breast. The lymph nodes, lobes, lobules, ducts, and other parts of the inside of the breast are also shown.
anatomical drawing of the male breast
Anatomy of the male breast. The nipple and areola are shown on the outside of the breast. The lymph nodes, fatty tissue, ducts, and other parts of the inside of the breast are also shown.

Our Experts

Our team of breast cancer specialists reviews each patient's case, coordinates treatment, and plans follow-up care. Breast cancer treatment may involve several providers:

  • Medical, radiation, and surgery doctors
  • Diagnostic specialists such as radiologists and pathologists
  • Geneticists
  • Nurses, physician assistants, social workers, dietitians, and physical/occupational/lymph edema therapists

These health care professionals are always available to answer your questions and help with your concerns.

Find a Breast Cancer Doctor

Specialties & Treatments

The Breast Cancer Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) provides state-of-the-art breast cancer screening and care. Our team of doctors has decades of collective experience treating patients diagnosed with breast cancer.

We serve patients with all types of breast cancer:

  • Triple negative breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma
  • Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)
  • HER2-positive breast cancer
  • Metastatic breast cancer
  • Recurrent breast cancer
  • Those with a genetic risk for breast cancer

We have experience with your type of cancer and will work with you to create the best treatment plan. We offer services in Salt Lake City, Farmington, and South  Jordan.

The treatment or combination of treatments is different for each person. It depends on the stage of cancer, what the care team recommends, and what the patient wants.

There are several common types of treatment:

  • Surgery, including reconstruction if necessary
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy

Learn more about types of cancer treatments and about breast cancer screenings such as a mammogram.

Surgery & Breast Reconstruction

Breast conservation surgery, also called lumpectomy or segmental mastectomy, removes the cancer and some normal tissue around it. The surgeon may also check and remove one or more lymph nodes. With breast conservation surgery, a woman is able to keep her breast.

In a mastectomy, the surgeon removes the whole breast and may also check and remove one or more lymph nodes. Breast reconstruction is an option for women who have a mastectomy, though this will likely involve additional procedures. A new breast may be made using an implant or by using the patient's own tissue from other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, thigh, or buttocks.

Oncoplastic surgery is a lumpectomy where healthy tissue from the same breast is moved to replace the space where the breast cancer was. The surgeon may also operate on the other breast so that both breasts match.

HCI's surgeons use advanced techniques to improve outcomes for patients:

  • Radioactive seed, wire, or Savi Scout® guidance to find exact tumor location
  • Targeted Axillary Dissection (TAD) to find sentinel lymph nodes after chemotherapy
  • Ink marking and imaging of the removed breast tissue during the surgery for more accurate pathology results
  • Close collaboration between breast surgeons and reconstructive surgeons to meet each patient’s choice of cosmetic outcomes
  • Nipple-sparing and skin-sparing mastectomy
  • Oncoplastic surgery and extreme oncoplastic surgery

Learn more about breast cancer surgery choices from the National Cancer Institute.

Breast Reconstruction Surgery: Mastectomy & Nipple Reconstruction

Listen to Dr. Kirtly Jones and Dr. Agarwal discuss the breast reconstruction surgery and the many options breast cancer patients have when it comes to mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is part of treatment for many patients. HCI's radiation oncologists use the latest technology to kill cancer cells while damaging as little healthy tissue as possible:

  • 3D radiotherapy and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)–we shape the radiation beam to match the tumor
  • Accelerated partial breast irradiation–radiation delivered only to the part of the breast with cancer
  • Hypofractionation–total radiation dose delivered over a shorter period of time
  • Balloon brachytherapy– radiation source placed inside the breast near the tumor
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery and body radiotherapy
  • Positional and breathing techniques to keep lungs and heart out of the radiation field

Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy & Targeted Therapy

Many patients get chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination as part of their treatment plan. HCI's medical oncologists use the latest standard-of-care options and conduct clinical trials to develop new treatments.

In addition, oncologists focus on managing side effects of treatments in order to improve the long-term quality of life for breast cancer survivors.

Learn more about breast cancer systemic treatment options from the National Cancer Institute.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials at HCI test new ways to treat, diagnose, and manage symptoms and side effects of breast cancer.

Many studies look at new drugs or new combinations of established treatments. Other trials may study the effects of diet, exercise, or complementary treatments such as massage or acupuncture on quality of life for breast cancer patients. Trials may be available for patients with any stage of cancer and at any phase of treatment.

Here is a sample of current clinical trials open to breast cancer patients. Each trial has its own requirements to participate.

Causes & Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease. Having a risk factor does not mean you are certain to get cancer, but it does means your chances are higher than the average person. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your personal cancer risk.

The chance of getting breast cancer increases with age and other risk factors:
A personal history of breast cancer or other breast disease

  • A personal history of breast cancer or other breast disease
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • Changes in certain genes that increase the risk of breast cancer such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Very dense breast tissue
  • More estrogen in the body over time from factors such as menstruating at a young age, being older than 30 when first pregnant or never being pregnant, and starting menopause at a later age
  • Taking hormones such as estrogen after menopause
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight

HCI features breast cancer imaging innovations:

  • Tomosynthesis (3D) mammography
  • Mammography combined with family history and genetic assessment
  • Interpretation and a conversation about the results while you’re at HCI for your mammogram screening
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Same day breast biopsy

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about breast cancer screening.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

If you notice a change in your breast, make an appointment right away. Checking for breast cancer can rule out an issue or help find cancer early, when it may be easier to treat.

Health care providers use these tests to screen for and diagnose breast cancer:

  • Clinical breast exam (CBE): A health care provider feels the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything unusual.
  • Mammogram: Digital x-ray images of the breast show abnormal areas inside the breast.
  • Ultrasound: High-energy sound waves create an image of breast tissue.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Equipment uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of the breast.
  • Tissue sampling (biopsy): Health care providers remove cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Stages of Breast Cancer

There are three ways cancer spreads in the body: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

There are four stages of breast cancer. Staging for breast cancer is very complex. The cancer stage depends on the size of the tumor, where the cancer has spread, and how many lymph nodes have been affected.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.

Learn more about breast cancer staging from the National Cancer Institute.

Breast Cancer Video Series

In this series of videos, HCI breast cancer surgeon Cindy Matsen, MD, explains what to expect as a breast cancer patient at HCI. She discusses who is on your care team, what to expect before and after surgery, and what your doctors need to know to treat your breast cancer.


Huntsman Cancer Institute offers many helpful services with information and support for breast cancer patients and their loved ones.