Medullary carcinoma of the breast

Medullary carcinoma of the breast (MCB) is an uncommon subtype of breast cancer and accounts for ~5% 1,4 of all breast cancers.

They tend to occur more frequently in younger women than other breast cancer types 7. The mean age of presentation varies from 46-54 years but in 10% of cases, they may present in women under 35 years.

Clinically, these tumours are characterised by rapid growth and therefore often manifest as palpable masses. Lesions can be quite large at presentation.

MCB typically arises from supporting stromal cells of the breast 3. The World Health Organization (WHO) criteria for diagnosis are “a well-circumscribed carcinoma composed of poorly differentiated cells with scant stroma and prominent lymphoid infiltration”. Large pleomorphic nuclei prominent nucleoli and high mitotic activity may be seen. The histologic appearance of medullary carcinoma can mimic that of poorly differentiated intraductal carcinoma not otherwise specified. Areas of associated necrosis may be present. In familial form of breast cancer with BRCA1 gene mutation medullary and mucinous cancers are more common.

There are two types of MCB:

  • typical type: has to meet the following criteria:
    • a) syncytial growth pattern of poorly differentiated tumor cells with a high mitotic rate
    • b) prominent lymphoplasmacytic reaction with a circumscribed microscopic appearance-inflammatory reaction must involve 75% of the periphery and must be present diffusely throughout the substance of the tumor
    • c) no glandular or fatty breast tissue should be found within the invasive portion of the tumour
  • atypical type: resembles the usual classic case; it must have at least 75% syncytial growth but does not have the other two features (circumscription and lymphoplasmacytic infiltration)

Many medullary carcinomas tend to be oestrogen and progesterone receptor negative.

Mammography

Typically seen as a circular/oval type mass lesion with ill-defined or circumscribed margins at mammography. There can be varying degrees of lobulation while calcification is usually not a feature.

Breast ultrasound

The mass can be either homogeneously hyperechoic or hypoechoic with mild heterogeneity 1-2. Enhanced through transmission may be present 2. The level of hypoechogenicity can sometimes be marked 8

Breast MRI

May show diffuse enhancement post contrast.

The prognosis tends to be better than for intraductal carcinoma (NOS).


Breast imaging and pathology
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Article Information

rID: 13598
System: Breast
Section: Pathology
Tag: cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Medullary breast carcinoma
  • Medullary carcinoma of breast
  • Medullary carcinoma of the breast (MCB)
  • Medullary breast cancer
  • Medullary breast cancer (MBC)
  • Medullary carcinoma of breast (MCB)
  • Medullary carcinoma of the breast
  • Medullary cancer of the breast
  • Circumscribed carcinoma

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