About Breast Cancer
Educating women and men on what they can do to be proactive with their breast health is one of our top priorities because the knowledge saves lives
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow. There are different kinds of breast cancer and therefore depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. Most cancer begins in the ducts or lobules, and can spread outside of the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. Breast cancer becomes metastasized once it spreads to other parts of the body.
The two most common types of breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. The invasive cancer cells in both types can spread to other parts of the body.
Invasive ductal carcinoma is cancer cells that begin in the ducts and then grow outside of the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue.
Invasive lobular carcinoma is cancer cells that begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to breast tissues that are close by.
Stages of Breast Cancer
Stage 0: A non-invasive breast cancer, meaning it hasn’t spread outside of its original location on the breast tissue. It’s highly treatable when it’s detected early. It can spread into surrounding breast tissue if untreated.
Stage 1: Stage 1: The earliest stage of breast cancer that is invasive. The cancer is no longer contained in its original location but is generally small and found in the early stages when it can be most effectively treated. This stage is divided into two categories: Stage 1A and Stage 1B, which is based on the size of the tumor and whether it is only in the breast tissue or has spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 2: The breast cancer is growing, but it is still contained in the breast or growth has only extended to the nearby lymph nodes. The stage is also divided into two categories: Stage 2A and Stage 2B. Chemotherapy is done first. Surgery and radiation therapy follows after.
Stage 3: The breast cancer has extended beyond the immediate region of the tumor and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes and muscles but hasn’t spread to nearby organs. This stage is divided into three categories: Stage 3A, Stage 3B, and Stage 3C. Treatment options may consist of a combination of two more treatments which is mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Stage 4: The breast cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, bones, lung and liver, and known as metastatic breast cancer. It’s not curable but is usually treatable. This stage may respond to a number of treatments and can extend your life for several years.
Want to learn more about the stages of cancer, visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org for more information.
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to many factors. Simply being a woman and getting older are the main factors that influence your risk. Breast cancer found in women and men are 50 years old or older but some women will get breast cancer without any risk factors that they know of.
Having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will get breast cancer and not all risk factors have the same effect. Most men and women can have the risk factors but not get breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about ways to lower your risk and screenings for breast cancer.
You can lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health by keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, choosing not to drink alcohol or drinking it in moderation, and if you are taking oral contraceptives, ask your doctor about the risks. Staying healthy will lower the risk of developing cancer and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it ever occurs.
If you have a family history of breast cancer or genetic changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about ways you can lower your risk.
Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
Even though it's rare, it's possible to be diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy, but breast cancer is not caused by the pregnancy. There is still hope for both mother and child because of the many treatment options available. If you have been diagnosed while being pregnant, be sure to communicate carefully with your obstetric care team. They will take extra care in designing the treatment plan that best controls the breast cancer while protecting your unborn child.
Even though breast cancer is more common in older women, if you’ve been diagnosed at a younger age, you may wonder if breast cancer will affect your ability to have children and if there will be any risks if you become pregnant. Women are able to become pregnant after being treated for cancer but some treatments can make it harder to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor before you begin treatment if you want to have children or want to keep that option open.
Studies have not shown that pregnancy increases the risk of the cancer coming back after successful treatment. However, some women may not be able to breastfeed after breast cancer treatment, depending on what type of treatment they have received. For those who are able to breastfeed after treatment, it’s not thought to increase the risk of breast cancer coming back because there is less information on if it can lower the risk of it coming back after treatment.