My diagnosis in April 2014 was multifocal, grade 3, stage 3, invasive ductal carcinoma, ER negative, PR negative, HER-2 positive (3+).
But what does it all mean?
Invasive ductal carcinoma
There are many different types of breast cancer. Ductal carcinoma means that it started
off in the milk ducts and invasive means that it has invaded the surrounding tissue.
Essentially it is a tumor or collection of tumors that has broken through the walls of the milk ducts.
Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for 80% of all breast cancers.
(Image by Cancer Research UK)
Multifocal means that there is more than one tumour, all originating from the same tumor.
I had many small tumors. In fact an examining myself I couldn’t feel them. Nor could my GP. I have since learnt, that in many cases initially there are no symptoms. And besides examining yourself also make sure you go to the doctor if there are any unusual changes in the breast. For example skin irritation, redness, swelling, pain or in my case a scar that wouldn’t heal.
The stage of the cancer indicates the size and / or spread of the tumour. There are 4 stages, and stage 3 means that it has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.
The grade of the cancer tells us what the cells look like, giving an indication as to how fast it will grow. They are graded 1 to 3, where 3 means it is fast growing.
HER-2 positive (3+)
“HER2 (human epidermal growth factor) is a protein that can affect the growth of some cancer cells. It is found on the surface of normal breast cells. Some breast cancer cells have a very high number of HER2 receptors. The extra HER2 receptors stimulate the cancer cells to divide and grow. When there are higher levels of the HER2 protein in a breast cancer, it is called HER2 positive breast cancer.
The higher the level of HER2, the more likely the cell is to grow and divide. Between 15 and 25 out of every 100 women with breast cancer (15–25%) have HER2 positive cancers.
HER2 positive breast cancers tend to grow more quickly than HER2 negative breast cancers. ”
ER and PR negative
ER stands for oestrogen and PR stands for progesterone and they are both hormones. ER positive means that the cancer has receptors for oestrogen while negative means that it doesn’t. PR positive means that the cancer has receptors for progesterone while negative means that it doesn’t.
25% breast cancers are ER and PR negative.