Understanding Adenoid Cystic Breast Cancer

Diagnosis and Prognosis of This Rare Invasive Breast Cancer

Microscopic Image of Breast Carcinoma
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Adenoid cystic breast cancer is a rare subtype of invasive breast cancer that carries an excellent prognosis for women. Let's learn more about this unique breast cancer and how it's diagnosed and treated. 

Description of Adenoid Cystic Breast Carcinoma:

The microscopic cell that adenoid cystic cancers originate from is still unknown. But under the microscope, this adenoid cystic breast cancer resembles that of an adenoid cystic carcinoma in the salivary gland.

Usually not aggressive, this type of breast cancer has a good chance of recovery after treatment. Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is not a breast fibroadenoma nor is it a breast cyst, both of which are benign breast conditions.

Not all cases of ACC are fueled by estrogen or progesterone, but some may be hormone-sensitive. 

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma – A Rare Breast Cancer Diagnosis:

ACC of the breast is rare, occurring in less than 0.1% of all breast cancers, as cited in a 2014 study in Cancer Research and Treatment.  ACC may occur in women ages 37 to 94 years old, with the majority of patients being postmenopausal women. According to a 2002 study in Cancer, ACC occurs most frequently to women in their 60s. 

Also Known As:

Adenoid cystic breast cancer, ACC, ACCB, AbCC, adenocystic carcinoma, "cylindroma"

Signs and Symptoms of ACC:

ACC may be quite small or it can be large enough to be felt as a breast lump, which sometimes causes swelling and breast pain.

The size of an adenoid cystic breast carcinoma can vary from 0.7cm  to 10cm .

Tests Used to Diagnose Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma:

  • Mammogram – an ACC will have a distinctly dense appearance on a mammogram
  • Breast ultrasound – an ACC tumor may be bumpy or have a fuzzy outline and an irregular shape on an ultrasound

Prognosis is Good, Recurrence is Rare:

Most cases of ACC of the breast do not spread to the lymph nodes and rarely metastasize to other parts of the body — if it does metastasize, the most common site is the lung.

ACC can be effectively treated, with very little risk of recurrence, and have an excellent outlook for complete recovery. This all being said, long-term follow-up is important.

Treatments for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma:

  • Lumpectomy – surgery to remove the tumor and a wide margin of surrounding tissue (helps prevent recurrence)
  • Mastectomy – surgery to remove all of the breast tissue, for larger tumors
  • Radiation – may be done after a lumpectomy to prevent recurrence
  • Hormone therapy – for hormone-sensitive tumors

American Cancer Society. What is Breast Cancer? Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Revised: 09/13/2007.

American Journal of Surgery, 2002 Jun;183(6):646-9. Adenoid cystic breast cancer. McClenathan JH, de la Roza G.

Arpino G, Clark GM, Mohsin S, Bardou VJ, Elledge RM.  Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the breast: molecular markers, treatment, and clinical outcome. Cancer. 2002 Apr 15;94(8):2119-27.

Kim M et al. Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the Breast: A Case Series of Six Patients and Literature Review. Cancer Res Treat. 2014 Jan; 46(1): 93–7.

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