Medullary carcinoma responds well to treatment

Your breasts are made up of many different types of cells that grow and divide. Sometimes when cells divide, they make a bad copy of your DNA and that cell can grow out of control and into a cancerous tumor.

Medullary carcinoma is a rare form of breast cancer that starts in the milk duct cells of your breast. It's called medullary carcinoma because the tumors look similar to a part of your brain called the medulla. The tumors are soft and gray.

Medullary carcinoma cells make up small tumors, but they can grow quickly into large tumors. However, medullary carcinoma cells don't spread quickly and often don't leave your breast at all. The cancer cells tend to stay very separate from your healthy cells. This makes medullary cancer easier to treat than many other breast cancers.

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Medullary carcinoma can be caught early

If you develop medullary carcinoma, you may feel like part of your breast has become thicker and almost spongy. You may also notice swelling in your breast. You should always talk to your doctor about changes in your breast.

Because medullary carcinomas create tumors with definite sides, you or your doctor may be able to feel them during a breast exam. Medullary carcinomas also show up well on mammograms, helping your doctor identify cancer early.

Comprehensive treatment can lead to a cure

Medullary carcinoma is often treated similarly to invasive ductal carcinoma. Your doctor will first remove the tumors using surgery. If your tumor is small, you may be able to have just the tumor removed (lumpectomy), or if the tumor is large, your whole breast may be removed (mastectomy).

You may also have radiation therapy to kill any remaining cells after surgery. Radiation therapy uses high-powered particles or X-ray beams to burn away cancer cells and leave healthy cells unharmed.

You may also need chemotherapy, which uses medicine to kill cancer cells no matter where they are in your body. Medullary carcinoma responds very well to surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These treatments are typically able to get rid of cancer completely.

Though medullary carcinoma is considered a triple-negative breast cancer, women with medullary carcinoma have a better outlook than other types of triple-negative breast cancers. Triple-negative breast cancer cells don't respond to hormones and don't have a HER2 gene that make them grow and spread rapidly. Special therapies like hormone therapy and targeted therapy don't help fight medullary carcinoma.