Overview of breast cancer
Breast cancer is the growth of cancerous tumors affecting the cells of the breast. The disease normally starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules and then spreads. A breast cancer that started off in the lobules is known as lobular carcinoma, while one that developed from the ducts is called ductal carcinoma.
Tests to determine stage of breast cancer
National Cancer Institute says that after breast cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. The process used to find out whether the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body is called staging, which helps determine the stage of the disease.
There are different test that can be used to determine the stage of breast cancer:
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: The institute says that biopsy of the sentinel lymph node is one of the first steps to determine the stage of breast cancer during surgery. The sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node to receive lymphatic drainage from a tumor and a biopsy will reveal the infection of cancer.
CT scan (CAT scan): A CT scan also help detect the stage of cancer. The procedure provides a more detailed picture of the body compared to an X-ray. Sometimes a dye maybe injected to highlight the organs better.
Bone scan: This procedure uses radioactive material to detect the presence of cancer cells that has started affecting the bones.
Stages of breast cancer
The most common system used to describe the stages of breast cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system.
The TNM staging system classifies cancers based on their T, N, and M stages:
The letter T followed by a number from 0 to 4 describes the tumor's size and spread to the skin or to the chest wall under the breast. Higher T numbers mean a larger tumor and/or wider spread to tissues near the breast.
The letter N followed by a number from 0 to 3 indicates whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the breast and, if so, how many lymph nodes are affected.
The letter M followed by a 0 or 1 indicates whether the cancer has spread to distant organs -- for example, the lungs or bones.
Stage 1 breast cancer
Stage 1 breast cancer is split into 2 stages
Stage 1A means that the tumor is 2cm or smaller and has not spread outside the breast.
the tumor is 2cm or smaller
Stage 2 breast cancer
This is divided into two groups
Stage 2A means
The tumor is larger than 2cm but not larger than 5cm and there is no cancer in the lymph nodes
Stage 2B means
The tumor is larger than 2cm but not larger than 5cm and small areas of cancer cells are in the lymph nodes
The tumor is larger than 2cm but not larger than 5cm and the cancer has spread to 1 to 3 lymph nodes in the armpit or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone
Stage 3 breast cancer
Stage 3A means
No tumor is seen in the breast or the tumor may be any size and cancer is found in 4 to 9 lymph glands under the arm or in the lymph glands near the breastbone
The tumor is more than 5cm and has spread into up to 3 lymph nodes in the armpit or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone
Stage 3B means
The tumor has spread to the skin of the breast or to the chest wall, and caused swelling or ulcer– the cancer may have spread to up to 9 lymph nodes in the armpit or to the lymph glands near the breastbone. It may also be the case that the cancer that has spread to the skin of the breast may also be inflammatory breast cancer.
Stage 3C means
The tumor can be any size, or there may be no tumor, but there is cancer in the skin of the breast causing swelling or an ulcer and it has spread to the chest wall. It has also spread to
10 or more lymph nodes in the armpit
Lymph nodes above or below the collar bone
In stage 4 breast cancer
The lymph nodes may or may not contain cancer cells
The cancer has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain.
Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: August 05, 2013