In the case of papillary carcinoma, rare is not a scary word

Many different types of breast cancer start in the cells of your milk ducts. Sometimes, as your ductal cells naturally grow and divide, they make copies of themselves with errors. These bad copies can grow out of control, forming tumors.

Papillary carcinoma is a very rare form of invasive ductal carcinoma. It is called papillary carcinoma because under a microscope, the tumor is strangely shaped and has small bumps or protrusions (called papillae) all around it. Men with breast cancer may be more likely to have papillary carcinoma than women with breast cancer.

Though it is rare, papillary carcinoma responds well to common breast cancer treatments. In fact, women with papillary carcinoma often have a better treatment outlook than women with other types of invasive ductal carcinoma. While some breast cancers get into lymph nodes and spread to other parts of the body, papillary carcinoma is more likely to just remain in your breast and not spread. This makes it easier to treat.

To schedule an appointment with a breast cancer specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.

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Does papillary carcinoma show symptoms?

As with other breast cancers, you may notice a lump or change in your breast tissue if you have papillary carcinoma. You may also experience strange discharge from your nipples. If you experience these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

How is papillary carcinoma treated?

The first step in treating your papillary carcinoma is surgery to remove all tumors. Your doctor might remove just the tumors (lumpectomy) or your entire breast (mastectomy). You can work with your doctor to find out which option is best for you and discuss any plans for breast reconstruction surgery.

You will have a few weeks to recover from surgery before starting radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-ray beams to target and destroy cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Not all patients may need radiation therapy.

Following radiation therapy, you might have chemotherapy, depending on specific case and stage of papillary carcinoma. Chemotherapy uses medicines that you take as pills or through an IV to kill cancer cells anywhere in your body.

Papillary carcinoma uses estrogen to help tumors grow. To help keep cancer from coming back, your doctor may have you take hormone therapy for five to ten years after you’re finished with cancer treatment. Hormone therapy prevents the cells in your breasts from taking in estrogen and prevents your body from making estrogen. Without estrogen, it is less likely that breast cancer cells will grow.