As you’re probably aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All over the country, people are raising money and awareness for the disease on behalf of themselves, or loved ones affected by the disease. Though advances in breast cancer research and treatments have increased steadily over the past decades, breast cancer is STILL something we should be talking about.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women (Lung Cancer being the leading cause of cancer deaths). Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells, occurring as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. Each type of breast cancer is broken down into stages and substages, each with their own treatment options of survival rates.
The Stages of Breast Cancer
- Stage 0: Non-invasive with no evidence of cancer cells breaking out of where they started.
- Stage 1: Is broken down into two categories:
- Stage 1A: A tumor measuring up to 2 mm and has not spread outside the breast
- Stage 1B: Small group of cancer cells found in the lymph nodes, OR a small tumor (up to 2mm) in the breast and a small group of cancer cells in the lymph nodes
- Stage 2: Is broken down into two categories:
- Stage 2A: Small cancer cells are found in 1-3 lymph nodes found under the arm or near the breastbone, OR there is a tumor that is 2cm or smaller and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, OR there is a breast tumor ranging from 2-5 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2B: There is a breast tumor ranging from 2-5 cm and small groups of cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, OR there is a breast tumor ranging from 2-5 cm and the cancer has spread to 1-3 lymph nodes under the arm or near the breastbone, OR there is a tumor larger than 5cm but has not spread
- Stage 3: Is broken down into three categories:
- Stage 3A: Cancer is found in 4-9 lymph nodes under the arm or near the breastbone, OR the tumor is larger than 5cm and small groups of breast cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, OR the tumor is larger than 5cm and the cancer has spread to 1-3 lymph nodes under the arm or near the breastbone
- Stage 3B: The tumor can be any size and has spread to the chest and/or skin, causing swelling or an ulcer, and may be in up to 9 lymph nodes
- Stage 3C: There may be no sign of cancer in the breast, or if there is a tumor, it can be any size and has spread to the chest and/or skin, OR the cancer has spread to 10 or more lymph nodes anywhere from under the arm to above or below the breastbone
- Stage 4: Advanced or metastatic cancer that has moved to the lymph nodes and other organs of the body. Stage 4 is usually a reoccurring cancer, and very rarely an initial diagnosis.
It’s important to know that being diagnosed with Breast Cancer is not an automatic death sentence. In fact, the average survival rate after being five years cancer-free is 90%, and the 10-year survival rate is 83%. The reason for such a high survival rate can be attributed to awareness organizations like Susan G. Comen and the American Cancer Society. But, don’t let these statistics give you a false sense of security. As always, doing home breast exams and annual mammograms (especially if you have a family history of the disease) is the number one way to catch the disease early. Diagnosis and treatment at an early stage will give you a greater survival rate.
Support IS Awareness
Emotional support is key when being diagnosed with breast cancer. There are any number of support groups, online AND in-person where other women discuss treatment options and advances, symptoms, and general thoughts and feelings about the disease. The spread of support is also spreading awareness, so you never have to feel alone.
For a closer look at the stages and treatment options, visit www.breastcancer.org, and as always, the professionals at Miami OBGYN are here for information and support.Leave a reply →