The Stages of Breast Cancer

What is breast cancer? Cancer is a serious disease caused by the spreading of abnormal cells to other parts of the human body. Breast cancer, in particular, is marked by a group of cancer cells generally known to create a malignant tumor or lump that starts in the cells of the breast. This group of cancer cells then spreads to the lymph nodes or to other organs through the bloodstream. This sometimes, unfortunately, ends in death and illness in many people.

The development of breast cancer can be broken down into several stages; it is important to understand what each stage represents because of cancer, especially breast cancer, is so ubiquitous in American women. The breast cancer stages use numbers that range from 0 to 4. Each stage implies that cancer has been diagnosed, and as the numerals get higher, it means that the cancer is more advanced.

Stage 0: This stage refers to noninvasive cancer that is diagnosed early. It stays in the breast ducts where it started. It is highly treatable and generally may go away with the right treatment and care.

Stage 1 Breast Cancer: This stage refers to cancer that is starting to attack healthy tissue. It is usually called ‘invasive’, this particular kind of cancer. Here the tumor may be the size of a peanut. In Stage IA, the cancer cells have moved into the fatty tissue of the breast. In Stage IB, small amounts of cancer cells have invaded the lymph glands. It too is highly treatable and goes away with the right treatment and care.

Stage 2 Breast Cancer: This stage refers to cancer that has grown and spread. In Stage IA, the tumor is still small but has most likely spread to the lymph nodes. In Stage IB, the tumor had grown to the size of a walnut or even bigger and may have found its way to inside the lymph nodes. It requires more aggressive form treatment but it is treatable, fortunately enough.

Stage 3 Breast Cancer: This refers to cancer that is advanced but has not yet spread to the bones or organs. In Stage IA, up to nine lymph nodes are infected and form a chain from the underarm to the collarbone. In Stage IB, the tumor has grown into the skin around the breast or into the chest wall. In Stage IIIC, cancer has spread above or below the collarbone or has been found in 10 or more lymph nodes. This stage is considered advanced but there are a number of treatment options.

Stage 4 Breast Cancer: This refers to the most advanced stage of breast cancer. The cancer cells have spread to other organs, usually the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. It is usually described as ‘metastatic’, meaning that the cancer cells have moved beyond a region where it was first discovered. Stage IV cancer is considered incurable. Stage IV breast cancer does not mean that a person has to give up on life or relationships as there are treatment options that will lengthen life. A strong support group of family and friends will help as there are tough decisions that need to be made. The strenuous cycle of treatments can be exhausting. Many women with Stage IV breast cancer have discovered a renewed strength of character, as well as qualities of resilience that they never knew they had.

It is important to know and understand the stages of breast cancer and the breast cancer treatment options available. Cancer, these days, does not necessarily mean death and debilitation. There are so many treatment options available, so many new scientific discoveries and options, that people are able to combat certain types of breast cancer and triumph.

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