Mucinous breast cancer, also known as Colloid carcinoma, is a rare type of invasive breast cancer or invasive ductal carcinoma, which means it spreads outside of the breast milk ducts. This type of breast cancer accounts for less than 2% of all breast cancers. It gets its name because the cancer cells are found in a substance in the body known as mucin, a key ingredient in mucus.
Mucinous breast cancer can be ‘pure’ which means it’s the only cancer present, or ‘mixed’, meaning it has other types of breast cancer in it. The ‘pure’ mucinous breast cancer has a better prognosis compared to other forms of invasive breast cancer.
Symptoms of Mucinous Breast Cancer
During the early stages of Mucinous breast cancer, the symptoms are usually invisible, but as it progresses, a noticeable lump develops. This lump can easily be felt or can be seen during a routine mammogram or breast screening.
Some of the symptoms of Mucinous breast cancer include:
- Breast lump or thickening of tissue in the breast
- Pain in the breast or armpit
- Swelling of the breast
- Change of skin texture e.g. dimpling or puckering
- Nipple discharge
- Painful nipple
- Change in size or shape of breast
- Retracted nipple
Diagnosis of Mucinous Breast Cancer
In most women, Mucinous breast cancer is diagnosed during a routine breast screening or mammogram after which you’ll be referred to a breast specialist for further examination. Other tests also ordered to confirm the presence of breast cancer cells, and to check how much of these have affected the breast include:
- An ultrasound scan
- Core Biopsy where a tissue sample is removed from breast for analysis
- Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) whereby a fine needle and syringe are used to take samples of the cancer cells for examination.
Treatment of Mucinous Breast Cancer
Based on the test results of the Mucinous breast cancer, the breast doctor will customize the treatment plan. This treatment plan is dependent on certain criterion including:
- The aggressiveness of the cancer
- The grade of the cancer
- Tumor size and location of the tumor
- Age and overall health
- HER2 status
- Hormone receptor status
The first form of treatment for Mucinous breast cancer is surgery, which is used to remove the tumor. There are two types of surgeries that are done. These are:
1. Breast-conserving surgery (BCS)
Also known as a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes the cancer cells, as well as a minimal amount of healthy breast tissue surrounding the tumor.
This is the surgical removal of the entire breast including the nipple, and it would be recommended if:
- The area of the cancer is large
- The cancer cells are in multiple areas of the breast
- There is a gene mutation which increases the likelihood of breast cancer
- There’s a history of breast cancer in the family
- The patient cannot stand radiation
Before the surgery, the patient is always given the option of having a breast reconstruction. This can happen immediately after the tumor is removed, or at a later date.
Surgery to the Lymph Nodes
Although Mucinous breast cancer is less likely to spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, the breast specialists might want to ensure it hasn’t spread there. This is done through a lymph node biopsy, where a small sample of the lymph nodes are removed and tested for cancer cells. If they are found to be affected by cancer, then these lymph nodes are surgically removed – a procedure known as lymph node clearance – and radiotherapy treatment might be recommended.
Additional Treatments for Mucinous Breast Cancer
After a lumpectomy or mastectomy, you may need additional treatments for Mucinous breast cancer, known as adjuvant treatments. The goal is to give the best promising outcome, and to reduce the chances of the cancer returning. Each treatment recommended depends on the state of the breast cancer. These treatments include:
- Chemotherapy: If the Mucinous breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, then the patient is offered the option of undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is an anti-cancer drug therapy that is done before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor with the aim of making it operable. The treatment is also given after surgery to minimize the chances of the cancer spreading or returning.
- Radiation therapy: If you go through a lumpectomy, you may need radiation therapy to destroy any cancer cells and reduce the chances of it recurring on the same breast. It might be done for the chest wall as well, if the lymph nodes under the arm are also affected by the cancer.
- Hormone therapy: This treatment is considered if the cancer cells have receptors that bind to estrogen. Administration of hormone therapy reduces the chance of the cancer returning or progressing further.
- Targeted therapy: If the breast cancer cells have human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 gene (HER2), treatment drugs to specifically target it may be given.
- Bisphosphonates: Bisphosphonates are drugs that are given orally or intravenously to either slow down or prevent bone damage. When used for cancer treatment in post-menopausal women, they reduce the risk of the Mucinous breast cancer
Recovery After Mucinous Breast Cancer
After the successful treatment of Mucinous breast cancer, your doctor will keep a close watch on you. Follow-up appointments are required and should be followed as agreed with the breast doctor, where he/she will do tests for signs of recurrence. A mammogram and screening might be required every 6 to 12 months.
At King’s College Hospital London Dubai, our Breast Care Clinic caters to every type of breast cancer and breast conditions. If you are facing any kind of abnormal changes to your breast, regardless how small, get in touch for a consultation with one of our breast doctors. For more information on breast cancer and breast care, book an appointment below.
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