Key Points about Medullary Carcinoma of the Breast
- Medullary carcinoma of the breast is a rare form of invasive ductal carcinoma that begins in the breast's milk duct and spreads from there.
- Diagnosing medullary carcinoma of the breast typically includes breast exam, biopsy and imaging tests.
- Treatment for medullary carcinoma of the breast usually begins with surgery and is followed by other therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Medullary carcinoma of the breast is a rare type of invasive ductal carcinoma, meaning that it begins in the milk duct and then spreads from there. Medullary carcinoma of the breast accounts for 3 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases.
Medullary carcinoma of the breast causes
Medullary carcinoma of the breast occurs when the DNA of cells in the milk duct mutates or changes.
Medullary carcinoma of the breast risk factors
Factors that may increase your risk for developing medullary carcinoma of the breast include:
- Being between the ages of 45 and 55
- Being of Japanese descent
- Having the BRCA1 gene mutation
Medullary carcinoma of the breast symptoms
In its early stages, medullary carcinoma of the breast typically does not cause symptoms. When they do occur, signs and symptoms may include:
- Lump in the breast – typically smaller than three-quarters of an inch in size and soft to the touch
- Pain or tenderness
Medullary carcinoma of the breast diagnosis
Your doctor will use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Breast exam - your doctor will begin by performing a breast exam, in which he or she uses the pads of the fingers to carefully check your breasts for abnormalities.
- Biopsy - during this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (tissue sample) from the suspicious area. The biopsy is sent to the lab for close analysis, where technicians can determine if there are any abnormalities present.
- Breast ultrasound - this type of imaging test uses sound waves to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can use ultrasound images to determine if there are any abnormalities present.
- Mammogram - this type of imaging test is a specialized X-ray used to screen the breasts for abnormalities.
Medullary carcinoma of the breast treatments
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of your medullary carcinoma of the breast and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery - in most cases, the treatment for this condition is the surgical removal of the cancerous area. The type of surgery you will need to undergo depends on the extent of the cancer. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible. In some cases, you may opt to undergo reconstructive surgery following surgery to treat breast cancer.
- Chemotherapy - you may need to undergo chemotherapy after your surgical treatment. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein). Chemotherapy can help destroy any cancerous cells that your surgeon was not able to remove surgically.
- Radiation therapy - you may need to undergo radiation therapy after your surgery to remove the tumor. During this treatment, high-energy waves are used to destroy microscopic cancer cells that could not be removed surgically.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.