Comedocarcinoma is a form of breast cancer characterized by the formation of clumps of dead cells at the core of the cancerous growth. When the cancer is cut open in a biopsy, the cells can be expressed much like the contents of a comedone or blackhead. Treatment options for patients with this cancer vary, depending on when the cancer is identified, and patients with a history of comedocarcinoma are at increased risk for developing breast cancer in the future.
This cancer is a form of ductal carcinoma in situ, developing in the ducts of the breast. These cancers are limited to the ducts, making them much easier to treat because they are less invasive. Comedocarcinomas tend to grow quickly and they can fill the duct with necrotic debris, but they will not spread to the rest of the breast. Patients may identify them during breast self exams and they can also be spotted during mammography, where they will show up in the form of abnormal cell growths. Sometimes, they cause calcifications and the deposits of calcium will show up like a flag on an X-ray.
If a doctor suspects that a patient has a comedocarcinoma, a biopsy can be performed to learn more about the cancer. These cancers are easy to identify thanks to their distinctive physical characteristics. Treatments include a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, along with chemotherapy and radiation to prevent the recurrence of cancerous growths in the breast. Medications like tamoxifen may be used to reduce the likelihood of another episode of breast cancer.
Because these cancers can spread quickly through the ducts of the breast, after a surgery to remove a comedocarcinoma, a laboratory technician will examine the removed tissue carefully to confirm that the margins are free of cancer cells. If they are not, a repeat surgery may be needed to remove cancerous cells left behind. Women can discuss the risks and benefits of lumpectomies and other procedures, including mastectomies where the breast is removed entirely, to decide on their best treatment option.
Care for comedocarcinoma is usually supervised by an oncologist, a physician who specializes in caring for cancer patients. It can include a treatment team of surgeons, oncology nurses, and other care professionals. Because cancers of the breast can be traumatic for patients, patients may also find it helpful to work with a psychologist or to join a support group for breast cancer patients. This can help patients process the complex emotions that often accompany diagnosis and treatment.