Diseases Diseases

Severity Of Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Although it can also affect men, breast cancer occurs predominately and is the most common type of cancer among women. It is a malignant tumor (a group of cancer cells) that originates from the breast tissue and is commonly found in the inner lining of the milk ducts.

Therapy is based upon the severity of the disease – the severity, tumor size, growth rate, and other significant characteristics. Treatment of breast cancer usually includes surgical procedures, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. In breast cancer, surgical removal of the tumor is in itself, the most beneficial procedure and can cure or lengthen the survival rate of an individual. Chemotherapy is often given in addition to surgery.

This type of cancer covers about 22.9% of all cancers worldwide in women. Its occurrence is nearly 100 times more common in women than in men. The outcome of the disease depends upon the type of cancer, stage and treatment regimen. Given the proper treatment, the prognosis and outcome is good.

Diagnosing Breast Cancer

Common signs of breast cancer may be a painless lump or mass found in the breast or armpit. There may also be changes in color, size, shape and feel of the nipple and breast. You may notice redness, dimpling, or wrinkling that looks like that of an orange’s skin (in medical terms, this is called peau d’orange). Abnormal nipple discharge may also be noted – it may be bloody, yellow like pus, or clear fluid. You must report to your physician at once if you notice one or more of these signs and symptoms.

Diagnosing the disease can be done through screening mammography and/or breast self-examination (BSE). Starting at the age of 20, women should begin doing BSE. This is done monthly. Mammograms are very good screening tools for women aged 40 and older, and they should continue to do screening annually as long as they are in good health. When doing both methods, make sure to review the results with your physician and report immediately if there are any significant breast changes.

How to Stage Breast Cancer

A physician is the one who determines the severity of breast cancer through a series of examinations. Severity is based on the size of the malignant tumor and whether the cancer cells have spread (metastasized) to nearby tissues and organs. Using these, the physician assigns a numeral, I to IV, which describes the specific  severity of breast cancer:

Stage 0 (Carcinoma in situ): The early stage in which the cancer cells are localized only within the breast without spreading to the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage I (Early stage invasive): The tumor is no larger than 2 cm and has not yet spread to the lymph nodes or outside the breast.

Stage IIA: Tumor is less than 2 cm but has begun to spread up to three auxiliary underarm lymph nodes, or the tumor is bigger than 2 cm but no larger than 5 cm without any lymph node involvement.

Stage IIB: Tumor has grown between 2 and 5 cm with involvement of lymph nodes, or tumor size is greater than 5 cm but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IIIA: Tumor is less than 5 cm and has spread up to nine auxiliary lymph nodes, or the tumor is at any size with lymph node involvement that adheres to one another or to a surrounding tissue.

Stage IIIB: The cancer cells have spread to nearby tissues such as the skin, pectoral muscles, ribs, chest wall, or lymph nodes found in the chest wall or above the collar bone.

Stage IV (End-stage breast cancer): Cancer cells have spread to other organs such as bones, lungs, liver, brain, or other lymph nodes.

Preventing Breast Cancer

If you have a strong, positive familial history for breast cancer, this is relevant to your diagnosis. Gather information about other family members like aunts and nieces as well. A thorough diagnostic workup, treatment regimen and possibly genetic testing may be necessary for you and other members of the family.

There is no guaranteed method to prevent cancer, but it is always helpful to review significant risk factors. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, avoiding excessive alcohol intake and cigarette smoking are some of the most helpful ways for you to prevent this fatal disease.

By Hannah Aliposa, published at 01/31/2012
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