Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed each year worldwide. Breast cancer begins when abnormal cancerous cells in the breast grow and multiply without stopping, creating a tumor; breast cancer usually starts in the ducts or lobules of breast.
Advanced breast cancer usually refers to metastatic breast cancer, also called stage IV breast cancer or secondary breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread locally in the area of the breast, but not to distant organs and tissues, is often referred to as ‘’ locally advanced breast cancer’’, or stage 111 breast cancer.
Given these various and sometimes inconsistent terms, if you or a loved one is diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, it is important to discuss with your doctor specifically what stage it is and its other characteristics (e.g. biology and where the cancer has spread). Knowing these details of a diagnosis can help you to understand important treatment decisions. ‘Advanced Cancer’ in general often means that the cancer is ‘’metastatic’’ i.e. has spread from where it started to distant parts of the body.
Breast Cancer is divided into five main stages, 0 through IV. The stages are based on whether the cancer is invasive or not, the size of the tumor, the number of lymph nodes involved, and the extent the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Stage 0: This stage is used to describe non-invasive breast cancer such as DCIS (Ductal carcinoma in situ). In stage 0, there is no evidence of cancer cells or non-cancerous abnormal cells breaking out of the part of the breast in which they started or invading normal tissue.
Stage 1: This stage describes invasive breast cancer (cancer cells are breaking through to or invading normal surrounding breast tissue).
Stage 11: This stage describes invasive breast cancer with 2-5cm and/or invasion in 1-3 axillary lymph nodes
Stage111: In this stage, the tumor may be any size: cancer is found in 4 to 9 axillary lymph nodes or in the lymph nodes near the breastbone (found during imaging test or a physical exam). In this stage, the cancer has spread to the chest wall and / or skin of the breast and caused swelling or an ulcer. There may be no sign of cancer in the breast. The cancer spreads to 10 or more maxillary lymph nodes.
Stage 1V: This stage describes invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs of the body, such as lungs, distant lymph nodes, skin, bones, liver, or brain.
Living a healthy lifestyle; exercising and eating healthy meals helps in the prevention of Cancer. Women ages 40 to 44 should start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast). Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years or can continue yearly screening.
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