In addition to more common forms of breast cancer, there are several rare forms of cancer that affect a small percentage of men and women diagnosed with breast cancer. Because they are uncommon, many physicians may not have familiarity with these rare types of breast cancers. Although the symptoms of rare breast cancer types may not lead to a diagnosis of breast cancer, we recommend men and women visit a breast specialist who is familiar with these infrequently occurring conditions.
Rare Breast Cancer Types
Angiosarcomas are rare breast tumors that primarily affect younger women, accounting for less than 1 percent of all primary breast malignancies. Symptoms of breast angiosarcoma include breast wall thickening, rash-like appearance, and skin discoloration. Some studies indicate that radiation therapy used to treat previous cancers might contribute to the development of certain angiosarcomas. Treatment options for angiosarcomas encompass surgery and chemotherapy.
More information about angiosarcomas of the breast, a rare breast cancer type, can be found by visiting our angiosarcomas page here.
Cystosarcoma Phyllodes tumors can be either benign or cancerous. It is often challenging for physicians to differentiate between the two, as they can feel similar during a physical examination and appear on imaging exams like a common benign growth. If cancerous, Cystosarcoma Phyllodes tumors grow rapidly to a large size, but these cancers seldom spread beyond the breast. Surgery is the most common treatment for Cystosarcoma Phyllodes.
Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes generate lymph, a fluid made of white blood cells, to combat infections detected in the body. Axillary lymph nodes, located in the armpit, can become swollen or enlarged when the body senses a threat. Enlarged axillary lymph nodes can be an indicator of breast cancer, but they may also result from other conditions, such as a cold or injury.
More information about enlarged axillary lymph nodes, a rare breast cancer type, can be found by visiting our axillary lymph nodes page here.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of cancer that resembles breast infection but does not respond to antibiotics. This aggressive form of breast cancer can spread rapidly through the lymphatic system. While inflammatory breast cancer was once nearly always fatal, medical advancements have significantly improved prognosis. The typical treatment for inflammatory breast cancer involves chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radiation therapy.
More information about inflammatory breast cance, a rare type of breast cancer, can be found by visiting our inflammatory breast cancer here.
Locally Advanced Breast Cancer
Locally advanced breast cancers have spread beyond the breast to the chest wall, breast skin, or nearby lymph nodes, but not to other internal organs. These cancers are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
More information about locally advanced breast cancer, a rare breast cancer type, can be found by visiting our locally advanced breast cancer page here.
Male Breast Cancer
Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimated around 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2023. Male breast cancer is more likely to affect men over 60 and, as with many instances of breast cancer in women, is often diagnosed after detecting a breast lump. Treatment for male breast cancer usually involves removing the breast, with radiation therapy and chemotherapy as additional treatment options.
More information about male breast cancer, a rare breast cancer type, can be found by visiting our male breast cancer page here.
Medullary Breast Cancer
Medullary breast cancers manifest as dense, well-defined tumors distinct from surrounding normal breast tissue. These cancers are more common in younger women and, despite appearing aggressive under a microscope, generally have a better prognosis than similarly sized, high-grade ductal breast cancers. Treatment for medullary breast cancers may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Metaplastic Breast Cancer
Metaplastic breast cancers are aggressive and capable of rapid growth. They are also likely to be triple-negative, meaning they will not respond to hormonal therapy. Due to their unique characteristics, metaplastic breast cancers can be challenging to diagnose. These cancers are typically treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Women with Paget's disease often experience scaly skin and persistent itching around their nipples. Although many women initially consult a dermatologist for this issue, it is a breast cancer that affects the nipple ducts. Paget's disease is often associated with additional tumors within the breast. Treatment for Paget's disease typically involves surgical removal of the nipple-areolar complex, combined with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy, depending on various personal factors.
More information about Paget’s disease of the breast, a rare breast cancer type, can be found by visiting our Paget’s disease page here.