What Does Poorly Differentiated Mean?

Question

Asked by vixeliz

What Does Poorly Differentiated Mean?

I have just been diagnosed with infiltrating poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma ... a tumor of about .9 cm. I'm doing some online research and wonder what the difference is between well, moderately and poorly differentiated cells. My tumor is small, but I'm concerned about the poorly differentiated aspect. Can anyone shed some light on it? Thanks.

Answer

Hi - Welcome to the club no one wants to join! Sorry for your diagnosis, but you've found a great community here.

"Differentiation" refers to a cell's ability to do its job; basically, to grow and create whatever type of tissue it's genetically supposed to build. Breast cancer cells that are "poorly differentiated" are so aggressive (read: wild, uncontrolled), that they're unable to build breast tissue; they just keep reproducing to no good end.

Cell differentiation is just one of many aspects of your cancer the pathologist and oncologist look at to determine the best treatment path. And please don't worry about "poorly differentiated" too much; many, many women have that diagnosis. It's actually very common. For lots of helpful information, please read our Guide to Understanding your Pathology Report. It'll really help you interpret the "medicalese" you'll find in your report.

Best of luck, and stay in touch - we're here for you. PJH

Answered by PJ Hamel