Treating Breast Cancer by Stages – Know the Different Options Available

Breast cancer is one of the commonly occurring cancers among women worldwide. But do you know that breast cancer can affect men as well? But be it a woman or a man, the good thing is that unlike most of the other cancers, there is more probability of curing breast cancer.

Yes, there are numerous treatments available for breast cancer. Most of the people require a combination of two or more.

The treatment for breast cancer varies with every stage of the disease. Your doctor would determine your cancer stage only after diagnosis. She or he will then determine the best treatment solution for breast cancer. The treatment given depends on other factors, like genetics, family history, age, and other health-related conditions. Treatment for early breast cancer stage may not cure same cancer at an advanced stage.

  • The stages of breast cancer extend from 0 to Distinct factors identify the stage, including:
  • The count of affected or damaged lymph nodes
  • The tumour size
  • The spread of cancer in other body parts

Doctors perform different types of tests to determine the correct stage of cancer. Some prominent tests are CT scan, ultrasound, PET scan, MRI, and X-ray. Such tests help the doctor narrow down the exact location of cancer, size of a tumour, and its reach to various parts of the body. If the imaging test reveals a mass in part of your body, your doctor will perform a biopsy to see whether it is benign or malignant. A blood test and physical exam can even help identify the cancer stage.

Treatment for Stage 0 Breast Cancer

Stage 0 of breast cancer is considered when the cancer cells are restricted to milk ducts. Cancer at this stage is noninvasive cancer and called as ductal carcinoma in situ. Cancer can spread beyond ducts, but early treatment can help cure the ailment.

  • Surgery

Lumpectomy is the common form of surgery performed for cancer at this stage. The doctor eradicates the cancerous cells and avoids its spread to other body parts. This is mainly performed as an outpatient process.

Mastectomy is the surgical process to remove the affected breast. It is done when DCIS is identified throughout the breast.

  • Radiation Therapy

This is a targeted therapy, which is usually suggested after lumpectomy. The process involves the use of high-energy X-rays to destroy cancerous cells and combat their spread. The treatment is performed in different settings.

  • Hormone Treatment

This treatment is suggested for individuals with single mastectomy or lumpectomy for progesterone receptor positive or estrogen receptor positive. The hormone treatment is usually suggested to reduce the risk of developing alarming breast cancer. It is also suggested to women with double mastectomy for breast cancer at stage 0.

Treatment for Stage 1 Breast Cancer

This stage occurs when a primary tumour is around 2 centimetres or less, and there is no damage to the lymph nodes. This is the stage 1A. If the stage moves to 1B, then the cancer is present in axillary lymph nodes, while there is no tumour present in the breast or a tumour is less than 2 centimetres.

The 1A and 1B are considered breast cancers of stage 1. Some of the treatment options available for this stage of breast cancer are:

  • Surgery

Mastectomy and lumpectomy are both cancers of stage 1. The surgical decision is taken after considering the location and size of a primary tumour, personal preference, and other genetic factors.

Performing biopsy of lymph nodes is complemented with other additional treatments.

  • Radiation Therapy

This is often suggested after the surgical process for breast cancer of stage 1.

  • Hormone Therapy

Doctors suggest hormone therapy to individuals with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, no matter what’s the size of a tumour.

  • Chemotherapy

If your breast cancer is negative for HER2, PR, and ER, it is known as triple-negative breast cancer or TNBC. A targeted form of therapy is Herceptin that is usually offered along chemotherapy for HER2+ breast cancer.

However, chemotherapy is not always required for early breast cancer stage.

Treatment for Stage 2 Breast Cancer

The stage 2A breast cancer is when a tumour is smaller than 2 centimetres and has reached 1 to 3 lymph nodes. It can also occur when a tumour has not reached lymph nodes but is between 2 and 5 centimetres.

The cancer of stage 2B would occur when it spread to maximum 3 lymph nodes, and the size is between 2 – 5 centimetres. If it has not spread to the lymph nodes, but the size is bigger than 5 centimetres then also it is stage 2B cancer.

Cancer at this stage is usually treated with combination therapies.

  • Surgery

Mastectomy and lumpectomy can both be considered depending on the location and size of a tumour. The process is done to remove breast as well as chest muscles. The process can also be followed by the process of reconstruction.

  • Radiation Therapy

This therapy is performed after the surgery to target remaining cancerous cells in the lymph nodes and chest.

  • Chemotherapy

This is a systemic process to kill cancers in the body. There are powerful drugs offered into the vein over the weeks or months. There are various types of drugs available to cure breast cancer.

  • Hormone Treatment

Once all treatment processes are completed, you would benefit from continued treatments for PR+ or ER+.

Treatment for Stage 3 Breast Cancer

The stage 3A cancer implies that cancer has reached to 4 to 9 lymph nodes or has augmented internal mammary lymph nodes. A tumour can be of any size. Also, it means that a tumour is larger than 5 centimetres and there are small clots of cancer cells in the lymph nodes. Ultimately, cancer at this stage includes tumours bigger than 5 centimetres involving 1 to 3 axillary lymph nodes.

The cancer of stage 3B occurs when a tumour has entered into the chest skin or wall and has invaded 9 lymph nodes. The stage 3C implies that the cancer is present in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes.

Most of the treatment for stage 3 breast cancer is similar to cancers in stage 2.  If there is a big primary tumour, the doctor would suggest chemotherapy to shrink cancer cells before surgery. The process would be followed by reconstruction.

Treatment for Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Breast cancer at stage 4 occurs when the cancer cells have spread to different parts of the body such as the brain, lungs, bones, or cancer. It is possible to cure metastatic breast cancer, but the treatment process is quite aggressive. Since cancer has affected different parts of the body hence, multiple therapies need to perform to combat cancer growth.

The treatment of stage 4 breast cancer is suggested on the basis of advancement of cancer. If cancer extends to lymph nodes, you might notice enlargement or swelling of the nodes. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are used for cancer at this stage.

A tumour identified at different locations is corrected. This helps the pain and symptoms associated with the ailment. The treatment process also involves the use of various types of drugs involving antidepressants, steroids, local anaesthetics, and anticonvulsants. (read more)

Summing Up

The prognosis offered for breast cancer depends on its stage. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the outcomes one can expect. Hence, if you identify any abnormalities, you must get a diagnosed done for the ailment.

Clinical studies and trials help people to experiment with new treatments. To know more about such treatment options, you must consult an experienced oncologist now.

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