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The similarity between the structure and function of the breast and prostate has been known for a long time, but there are serious discrepancies in the terminology describing breast and prostate cancers. The use of the large, thick-section (3D) histology technique for both organs exposes the irrationality of the breast cancer terminology. Pathologists with expertise in diagnosing prostate cancer take the anatomic site of cancer origin into account when using the terms AAP (acinar adenocarcinoma of the prostate) and DAP (ductal adenocarcinoma of the prostate) to distinguish between the prostate cancers originating primarily from the fluid-producing acinar portion of the organ (AAP) and the tumors originating either purely from the larger ducts (DAP) or from both the acini and the main ducts combined (DAP and AAP). Long-term patient outcome is closely correlated with the terminology, because patients with DAP have a significantly poorer prognosis than patients with AAP.
The current breast cancer terminology could be improved by modeling it after the method of classifying prostate cancer to reflect the anatomic site of breast cancer origin and the patient outcome. The long-term survival curves of our consecutive breast cancer cases collected since 1977 clearly show that the non-palpable, screen-detected breast cancers originating from the milk-producing acini have excellent prognosis, irrespective of their histologic malignancy grade or biomarkers. Correspondingly, the breast cancer subtypes of truly ductal origin have a significantly poorer outcome, despite recent improvements in diagnosis and therapy. The mammographic appearance of breast cancers reflects the underlying tissue structure. Addition of these “mammographic tumor features” to the currently used histologic phenotypes makes it possible to distinguish the breast cancer cases of ductal origin with a poor outcome, termed DAB (ductal adenocarcinoma of the breast), from the more easily managed breast cancers of acinar origin, termed AAB (acinar adenocarcinoma of the breast), which have a significantly better outcome. This simple and easily communicable terminology could lead to better communication between the diagnostic and therapeutic team members and result in more rational treatment planning for the benefit of their patients.
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