Metaplastic carcinoma of the breast is a rare type of cancer that usually develops in one type of cell and changes to another type of cell with a different function. This cancer forms when a change (mutation) in DNA causes certain cells to grow out of control, forming a lump or a tumor. The most common location where metaplastic carcinoma of the breast develops is in the outer layer of cells forming the breast glands. Some of these cancerous cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and grow there. The cancer commonly spreads to the lymph nodes, most frequently in the neck and head region. Some types of metaplastic carcinoma of the breast may also spread to the lungs.
Common symptoms include skin irritation or tenderness in the breast area, change in breast size, and formation of a persistent sore. There may also be swelling or finding of a lump in the breast or under the arm, which may or may not be painful. Depending on the size of the cancer, one may experience pain and rash formation in the breast as well. Diagnoses are made usually with a combination of a physical exam, imaging studies, and other laboratory studies.
This condition most commonly occurs in females between the ages of 50 and 60, though it can appear in all age groups. Risk factors that increase one’s risk for developing the condition include a family history of breast cancer or inheriting a change (mutation) in a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
Treatment options depend on many factors such as how large the cancer is and if it has spread to other areas of the body. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with metaplastic carcinoma of the breast, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also available for more resources and information. Meeting with a genetic counselor may also be helpful to better understand cancer risks and to discuss genetic testing options.