Breast Cancer Expert Forum
What is 'poorly differentiated' cancer?
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Questions posted in the Breast Cancer Forum are answered by medical professionals and experts. Topics include Breast Biopsy, Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy, Lumps, Lumpectomy, Lymph node dissection, Lymphedema, Mammograms, Mastectomy, Radiation Therapy, Reconstruction, Self Breast Exam, and Surgery.

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What is 'poorly differentiated' cancer?

I just had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal.  The 11 nodes removed were all cancer free.  However, my surgeon told me that my lump was a "poorly differentiated" cancer, and therefore I might have to undergo chemo as well as radiation.

Just what is meant by a "poorly differentiated" cancer?
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Dear Chatch, One of the ways of describing cells in a pathology specimen is by how closely they resemble the original normal cell.  The descriptions range from well-differentiated, meaning they look very similar to the original breast cell to poorly differentiated, meaning the cells have gone through many changes that make it look very different from the normal breast cell.

Cell differentiation is only one of the factors taken into account when decisions regarding the recommendation for adjuvant treatment (treatment given after surgery to try to prevent or minimize the growth of microscopic deposits of tumor cells that might grow into a recurrent tumor).  Some other factors include tumor size, nodal status, estrogen receptor status.
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What was wrong...what findings were there that necessitated the lumpectomy. The pathology report should tell you exactly what was found; have you seen it? Has more than one pathologist (from a different lab) reviewed your biopsy slides? Sounds like you need to ask your doctor some questions. If you're nervous about it, take a tape recorder along. I found that an invaluable tool in both helping me to express my questions more clearly, and to "hear" the answers when I was in a less stressful environment.
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