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Breast cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the breast tissue. It is one of the most common types of cancer among women worldwide, with an estimated 2.3 million new cases diagnosed in 2020 alone. One of the key factors that can affect the treatment of breast cancer is the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. In this blog, we will take a closer look at breast cancer staging, including its different stages.
We will also explore some of the common symptoms of breast cancer, as well as the various treatment options available. Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, or you are simply interested in learning more about this important topic, this blog will surely help.
What Is TNM Breast Cancer Staging?
TNM staging is a system to classify the extent and spread of cancer in the body. Breast cancer staging is the process of determining the extent of the disease and how far it has spread in the body. The stage of breast cancer helps doctors plan the most appropriate treatment and predict the likely outcome of the disease. The staging system for breast cancer is the TNM system, which stands for Tumor, Nodes, and Metastasis.
The TNM system for breast cancer takes into account three key factors:
- T (Tumor): The size and extent of the primary tumor in the breast.
- T0: There is no evidence of a primary tumor in the breast.
- T1: The tumor is 2 centimeters (cm) or smaller in size.
- T2: The tumor is larger than 2 cm but not more than 5 cm in size.
- T3: The tumor is larger than 5 cm in size.
- T4: The tumor has grown into the chest wall or skin of the breast.
- N (Node): The extent of cancer spread to the lymph nodes.
- N0: There is no evidence of cancer spreading to the lymph nodes.
- N1: Cancer has spread to 1-3 axillary lymph nodes (under the arm).
- N2: Cancer has spread to 4-9 axillary lymph nodes or the internal mammary lymph nodes (located beneath the breast bone).
- N3: Cancer has spread to 10 or more axillary lymph nodes or the lymph nodes near the collarbone.
- M (Metastasis): The presence of cancer in other parts of the body.
- M0: There is no evidence of cancer spreading to distant organs.
- M1: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver, or brain.
What Are The Stages Of Breast Cancer?
Based on these factors, breast cancer can be classified into stages. The stage of breast cancer can help determine the prognosis and treatment options for the patient. After the T, N, and M breast cancer staging is done, they together assign an overall stage. The stages range from 0 to IV.
Breast cancer stage depends on the size and extent of the tumor, whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and whether it has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body. Here’s a more detailed explanation of the different stages of breast cancer:
This is the earliest stage of breast cancer, also known as non-invasive breast cancer. In this stage, abnormal cells are found in the breast tissue, but they have not spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes. Stage 0 breast cancer is divided into two types:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): Abnormal cells are present in the milk ducts of the breast. These cells have not spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): Abnormal cells are present in the lobules of the breast. These cells have not spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
This is an early stage of breast cancer where the tumor is small and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The tumor is less than 2 centimeters in diameter.
Stage II Of Breast Cancer Staging
In this stage, the tumor may be larger than in stage I, and it may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes. Stage II breast cancer has two subcategories:
- Stage IIA: The tumor is less than 2 centimeters in diameter, but cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes under the arm. Or the tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters in diameter, but cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IIB: The tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters in diameter, and cancer cells are present in the lymph nodes under the arm. Or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters in diameter, but cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
In this stage, the tumor is larger and may have spread to nearby tissues, such as the skin or chest wall. Cancer may also have spread to several lymph nodes, but it has not spread to other parts of the body. Stage III breast cancer is divided into three subcategories:
- Stage IIIA: The tumor is smaller than 5 centimeters in diameter, but cancer cells are in the lymph nodes under the arm. Or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters in diameter, and cancer cells are present in a few lymph nodes.
- Stage IIIB: Cancer has spread to the skin, chest wall, or both, and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage IIIC: By now cancer has spread to several lymph nodes, including those above or below the collarbone.
Stage IV Of Breast Cancer Staging
This is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, where cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. This is metastatic breast cancer or advanced breast cancer. In stage IV breast cancer, the cancer cells have left the breast and formed tumors in other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area. This lump may feel hard, uneven, or different from the surrounding tissue. However, not all breast lumps are cancerous, and many women have lumps that are benign (non-cancerous).
Other symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- A change in the size or shape of the breast: Breast cancer may cause one breast to become larger or lower than the other, or it may cause the breast to change shape or become distorted.
- Nipple discharge or retraction: Breast cancer may cause a discharge from the nipple, which can be clear or bloody. It may also cause the nipple to become inverted (turn inward) or change in shape.
- Changes in the texture or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple: Breast cancer may cause the skin on the breast or nipple to become thickened, dimpled, puckered, red, or scaly.
- Breast pain or tenderness: Breast cancer may cause discomfort or pain in the breast, although this is not a common symptom.
- Swelling in the breast or armpit: Breast cancer may cause swelling or enlargement of the breast, or swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm.
It is important to note that these symptoms may also be due to other conditions, such as a breast cyst or infection. However, if you notice any of these symptoms, you need to see a doctor for an evaluation.
Regular breast self-exams, as well as mammograms, can help detect breast cancer at an early stage.
How To Diagnose Breast Cancer?
The diagnosis of breast cancer involves several steps, which may include:
- Breast Check: A physical exam of the breast and lymph nodes is typically the first step in diagnosing breast cancer. The doctor will look for any lumps, changes in the skin or nipple, or other abnormalities.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests, such as mammography, ultrasound, or MRI, help to take pictures of the breast tissue and identify any suspicious areas or abnormalities.
- Biopsy: If an abnormality is there, a biopsy may take place to remove a small sample of tissue from the breast for examination under a microscope. There are several types of biopsies, including:
- Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy: A thin needle is used to remove a small sample of tissue or fluid from a lump or suspicious area.
- Core Needle Biopsy: A larger needle is used to remove a small cylinder of tissue from a suspicious area.
- Surgical Biopsy: A surgeon removes all or part of the suspicious area for examination.
- Pathology: The tissue sample from the biopsy is sent to a pathology lab, where it is examined under a microscope to find if cancer is present, and if so, what type of cancer it is.
- Staging: If cancer is there, further tests may be done to determine the stage of cancer, which helps guide treatment decisions. Staging may involve imaging tests, such as CT or bone scans, to see if cancer has spread to other body parts.
Treatment After Breast Cancer Staging
Breast cancer treatment may depend on the stage of cancer, as well as the individual’s health, age, and personal preferences. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy. In many cases, a combination of these may be used.
- Surgery: Surgery is often the first line of treatment for breast cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove as much cancer as possible. The type of surgery will depend on the stage and location of the cancer. Options include lumpectomy (removing the tumor and some surrounding tissue) or mastectomy (removing the entire breast).
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It happens after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to shrink a tumor before surgery. It may also be helpful to relieve symptoms in the advanced stages of the disease.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It also happens after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to shrink a tumor before surgery. It may also be used to relieve symptoms in the advanced stages of the disease.
- Hormonal Therapy: Hormonal therapy is to block the effects of hormones that can stop the growth of certain types of breast cancer. It may be used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy.
- Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that specifically target certain proteins or genes that contribute to the growth and spread of cancer cells. It may be used in combination with other treatments.
Quick Recap On Breast Cancer Staging
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the breast tissue. Breast cancer may not always cause noticeable symptoms, especially in its early stages, which is why regular screening and self-exams are important. The best treatment plan will depend on many factors, including the stage of cancer, the individual’s overall health, and personal preferences. A healthcare provider who specializes in breast cancer can help develop a treatment plan that is best for each individual.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What Is Breast Cancer Staging?
A: Staging is based on the results of physical exams, imaging tests, biopsies, and other tests. The stages of cancer range from stage 0 to stage IV and describe the extent of cancer.
Q: What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer?
A: The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. Other signs and symptoms may include a change in the size or shape of the breast, a change in the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, and pain in the breast or nipple.
Q: What Are The Most Essential Nutrient For Cancer Patients?
A: Cancer patients are very prone to various diseases, to heal tissues and help fight infection. So, to keep them healthy cancer patient diet include extra protein, vitamins, and minerals in their diet.
Q: How To Diagnose Breast Cancer?
A: Diagnosis of breast cancer usually begins with a physical exam and a mammogram. Further tests may take place such as an ultrasound, MRI, or biopsy.
Q. What Are Some Risk Factors For Breast Cancer Staging?
A: Some risk factors for breast cancer include increasing age, family history of breast cancer, genetic mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2), certain types of benign breast disease, radiation exposure, and lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and obesity.
Q. What Is The Best Way To Detect Breast Cancer Early?
A: The best way to detect breast cancer early is with regular screening tests such as mammograms, clinical breast exams, and self-exams.
However, another biggest health concern is obesity. Whether it’s cancer or any other health concern like weight gain diet plays a very major role. If you want to achieve a healthy body, then constant dedication and belief are very important. At Fitelo, we have many success stories of our clients who all manage to become healthier by following the best diet.
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