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Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center / Centers & Clinics

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Adenoid Cystic Breast Cancer

Adenoid Cystic Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Adenoid cystic breast cancer is a rare type of invasive ductal breast cancer which accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancers Like other types of invasive ductal cancer, adenoid cystic breast cancer begins in the milk duct of the breast before spreading to the tissues around the duct.  When the cells of an adenoid cystic tumor are examined under the microscope, they look like cancer cells more commonly found in the salivary glands and saliva.  These cells are different than those of typical ductal cancers.  

Adenoid cystic tumors are often “triple negative”, meaning that the cells do not express the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or HER2 receptor.  Even when triple negative, adenoid cystic breast cancers are less likely to involve the lymph nodes, are more responsive to treatment, and may have a better prognosis than more common types of invasive ductal cancer.

Adenoid Cystic Breast Cancer Treatment

Local therapy is aimed at preventing the cancer from coming back in the breast. Local therapy includes surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy), and may include radiation.  When adenoid cystic breast cancers spread, they typically do not travel through the lymphatic system, and the lymph nodes are usually negative for cancer, and axillary node dissection (removal of the underarm lymph nodes) is usually not required.

Systemic therapy is used to prevent the disease from coming back or spreading to another part of the body.  This may include endocrine (hormone) therapy, chemotherapy, and therapy that targets the HER2 protein.  Often different types of treatment are used together to achieve the best result.

Your treatment plan will be based on the features of the tumor (type of cells, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, and HER2 status) and the stage of the disease (tumor size and node status). Your oncology team will recommend a treatment plan based on what is known about adenoid cystic breast cancer in general and tailored to your specific disease.

We know that it can be stressful to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, and learning that you have a rare form of the disease can add to your anxiety.  We hope it will be reassuring to know that our team at the Center for Rare Breast Tumors is dedicated to latest research and treatment of adenoid cystic breast cancer, and is here to support patients and their families through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.