Breast Cancer

Understanding Breast Cancer: The Stages, Symptoms and Treatment

The United States has more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors. With the latest in medical innovation, the numbers continue to climb showing great promise for the future. Though thought to have some genetic links, 85 percent of most people with breast cancer have no family history. Breast cancer is not just a woman’s disease, there are more than 2,100 men that are also diagnosed annually. Thanks to new testing methods, the importance of self-testing and public awareness, people are taking charge of their health; thus, many catch it in time.

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Symptoms

A discharge or bleeding from the nipple area is a common symptom. There may be pain in the breast area or an unusual bruising appearance. Tenderness of the breast and under the armpit area are not uncommon. The breast cancer symptoms may be hard to deny or there may be none at all. Many people are surprised when their test results come back positive, as they had no symptoms at all.

Breast Cancer Screening

There are two common testing procedures that are used for breast cancer screening. The first and most common is the mammography. A mammogram takes pictures of the inside tissue of the breast. This machine is able to find about 84 percent of breast cancer cases without issue. However, in recent years, the ultrasound machine has proved to pick up the slack where the mammogram fails. The ultrasound is able to target specific areas that the mammogram picked up on. It’s used for a more detailed picture. Though it’s not the first choice for breast cancer screening, it’s often brought in to verify a lump or get a better look.

Breast Cancer Stages

The oncologist will look at the tumor and use the various information to determine what stage a person’s cancer is in. If the lump has not spread to the lymph nodes under the breast or metastasized, they will look at the size of the lump. The stages are marked with a O through IV, they are as follows:

  • Stage 0 – The cancer is non-invasive and has not spread beyond the local area.
  • Stage 1 – The tumor is breaking through surrounding tissue and the tumor is 2 centimeters.
  • Stage 2 – Cancer has spread to surrounding lymph nodes or the tumor is larger than 2 centimeters.
  • Stage 3 – The cancer is considered to be aggressive. It can be found in 4 to 9 axillary lymph nodes, as well as grown to 5 centimeters.
  • Stage 4 – This stage of cancer is advanced and the cancer is aggressive. Cancer has metastasized outside to other organs and is commonly affecting the lymphatic tissues.

Breast Cancer Treatments

Breast Cancer Surgery is often the first choice for treating cancers. Follow up treatments include radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. The type of treatments used is dependent upon the stage of cancer and the characteristics of the tumor. Some specific treatments can be used, like pinpoint radiation, to treat only the spot affected.

Breast Cancer Survival Rates

When cancer is found early enough, it offers hope for a full recovery. There are many variables that come into play when determining the survival rate. The most important factor is what stage the cancer is in when it is discovered. Found at a Stage 0, the survival rate is 100 percent for five years. The outlook is reduced by each stage. When found at Stage IV, the chances of surviving beyond five years are reduced to a mere 22 percent.

It’s important to do self-examinations, as well as work with a doctor and have the required yearly testing done. Those tests save lives and they are painless.