Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, except for non-melanoma skin cancers. Approximately 180,500 new breast cancer cases are expected in 2007 (ACS Cancer Facts and Figures 2007).
Breast cancer occurs primarily in two forms, lobular and ductal carcinoma. Treatment depends on the extent of the cancer, whether it remains within the original cell type, called in situ, or has spread to adjacent tissues referred to as invasive cancer. Cancer that remains within the original organ, whether invasive or in situ are called localized. While tumors that have spread to nearby areas are called regional and cancer cells that spread to other parts of the body are called metastatic cancer.
The 5-year relative survival rate for localized breast cancer has increased from 80% in the 1950s to 98% today. If the cancer has spread regionally (for example, to the axillary lymph nodes), the 5-year survival rate is 83%. And for women with disease that has spread to other organs, the survival rate is currently 26%. (ACS Cancer Facts & Figures, 2007)
Cancer Stage & Symptom
The cancer stage is a determination of the size, location, and extent of the cancer e.g., how far the disease has spread. The cancer stage provides critically important information for treatment decisions and prognosis of an individual patient. The cancer stage is based on the final pathology report combined with any xray studies such as CT scans, bone scans, MRI, etc.
The current staging method used in the US is the TNM system (2002, 6th edition), which evaluates 3 cancer characteristics. T represents the tumor size; N describes the amount of lymph node involvement; and M describes whether a tumor has spread (metastasized) to distant organs. Breast cancer is then classified from Stage 0 to IV using the TNM description. Stage 0 is the earliest, lowest stage and includes “in situ” cancers that are not invasive. Stage I-IV includes invasive cancers.
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