What Is Cribriform Breast Cancer?

We at New Hope Unlimited have seen all types and forms of cancers. We have seen cancers that are of the usual types and some of the rarest in the world.

Cribriform breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer that is further explained and investigated by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN and reviewed by Yamini Ranchod, PhD, MS.  This cancer is often combined with another form of breast cancer and is a typical low-grade and slow-growing cancer with a better outlook than most other types of invasive breast cancer.

An estimated 0.3 to 3.5% of people with breast cancer have cribriform breast cancer, according to one study.  This type is characterized by breast cancer cells that feature a pattern of holes between the cancer cells that closely resemble Swiss cheese, according to BreastCancer.org.  Cribriform cancer can also include features from other types of breast cancers and you can have more than one type of cancerous cells in a particular tumor.  If a doctor also diagnoses a person with invasive mammary carcinoma of no special type, it means the cancer cells do not resemble any specific cancerous cells.

Different types of cells that grow in breast cancers include tubular, mucinouscribriform and micropapillary.  According to the American Cancer Society, cribriform breast cancer is a less common type of cancer than a typical invasive ductal carcinoma.  People with this kind of cancer have a much better outlook than those who have, as an example,  micro papillary breast cancer.

A doctor will look at the cell types and describe the cancer cells to grade them as 1, 2 or 3, which tells other doctors how different the cancerous cells are from the healthy breast cells.  The higher the grade, the faster the cancer cells usually grow.  Grade 1 are slow-growing, grade 2 are moderately different from normal cells and grade 3 are very abnormal and appear to grow quickly.

There are various staging of cribriform breast cancer.  Stage 0 is carcinoma in situ where the cancerous cells have not spread, stage 1 is 2 centimeters or less and not spread, stage 2 where they are smaller than 2 cm with a spread of 1-3 lymph nodes and stage 3 where the tumor is any size and has spread to more than 3 lymph nodes or into the chest wall, or is larger than 5 cm with a 1-3 lymph node spread.  In stage 4 the cancer has spread outside the breast and to other organs, known as metastasis.

An article published in the journal Oncology Letters indicates that a cribriform breast cancer type does not usually metastasize or spread to lymph nodes under the arm and usually a favorable prognosis.

Some treatments include surgical removal, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy.  Each will have their own side effects that can range from mild to severe.  Treatment options should be discussed with your doctor.  Usually a mammogram (an X-ray) will be ordered to identify tumors or masses.  This type of cancer does not typically cause symptoms and are not always easily seen on a mammogram.  An ultrasound can help identify a potential cribriform breast cancer.

They will usually recommend a biopsy and sometimes a surgeon will remove the tumor entirely to review the tumor under a microscope.  The incidence of cribriform breast cancer is between 0.3 and 3.5% and does not usually metastasize or spread to lymph nodes, therefore prognosis is usually favorable.

Dr Fredda Branyon