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Liza's Lids 

Sharing strength, support and encouragement

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer affects 1 in 8 women.

Breast Cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is considered a heterogeneous disease—differing by individual, age group, and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves.

Obviously no woman wants to receive this diagnosis, but hearing the words “breast cancer” doesn’t always mean an end. It can be the beginning of learning how to fight, getting the facts, and finding hope.

Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women.

Each year it is estimated that nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.

Approximately 1,700 men will also be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die each year. The evaluation of men with breast masses is similar to that in women, including mammography.

What Are the signs of Breast Cancer?

Often there are no outward signs of breast cancer that you can see or feel.

If there are outward signs, the more common ones include a lump, an area of thickening, or a dimple in the breast.

Less common signs include breast swelling and redness or an enlarged underarm lymph node.

But even if you have one or more of these signs, it still doesn't mean you have breast cancer.

Physical examination of the breast is one way to find breast cancer. If you see any changes to your breast such as these items listed below see a Doctor.

  • Breast Pain
  • Lumps
  • Cysts
  • Nipple Changes

Remember that most breast lumps turn out to be benign (not cancerous). Still, it's extremely important that you SEE YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY if you're worried that you might have breast cancer. Having your doctor take a look will ease your worry, and if anything is found, you'll be able to take care of it quickly.

Stages of Breast Cancer

Stage 0

Stage 0 is used to describe non-invasive breast cancers, such as DCIS (ductul 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.

Stage I

Stage I describes invasive breast cancer (cancer cells are breaking through to or invading normal surrounding breast tissue)

Stage I is divided into subcategories known as IA and IB.

Stage I(A) describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • the tumor measures up to 2 cm AND
  • the cancer has not spread outside the breast; no lymph nodes are involved

Stage I(B) describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • there is no tumor in the breast; instead, small groups of cancer cells – larger than 0.2 millimeter but not larger than 2 millimeters – are found in the lymph nodes, OR
  • there is a tumor in the breast that is no larger than 2 centimeters, and there are small groups of cancer cells – larger than 0.2 millimeter but not larger than 2 millimeters – in the lymph nodes.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into subcategories known as IIA and IIB.

Stage II(A) describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • no tumor can be found in the breast, but cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary) OR
  • the tumor measures 2 cm or smaller and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes OR
  • the tumor is larger than 2 cm but not larger than 5 cm and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes

Stage II(B) describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • the tumor is larger than 2 cm but no larger than 5 cm and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes OR
  • the tumor is larger than 5 cm but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes

Stage III

Stage III is divided into subcategories known as IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

Stage III(A) describes invasive breast cancer in which either:

  • no tumor is found, but cancer is found in axillary lymph nodes, which are clumped together or sticking to other structures, or cancer may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone OR
  • the cancer is any size and has spread to axillary lymph nodes, which are clumped together or sticking to other structures

Stage III(B) describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • the cancer may be any size and has spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast AND
  • may have spread to axillary lymph nodes, which are clumped together or sticking to other structures, or cancer may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone

Inflammatory breast cancer is considered at least stage IIIB. Typical features of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • reddening of a large portion of the breast skin
  • the breast feels warm and may be swollen
  • cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes and may be found in the skin

Stage III(C) describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • is a tumor of any size and the cancer may have spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast AND
  • the cancer has spread to lymph nodes above or below the collarbone AND
  • the cancer may have spread to axillary lymph nodes or to lymph nodes near the breastbone

Stage IV

Stage IV describes invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs of the body, such as the lungs, distant lymph nodes, skin, bones, liver, or brain.

You may hear the words “advanced” and “metastatic” used to describe stage IV breast cancer. Cancer may be stage IV at first diagnosis or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.