Why Is Staging Important
During your initial diagnosis, you and your cancer team will work together to develop a treatment plan. Staging allows you to answer the following questions:
- How does this cancer typically progress?
- Which treatments may work?
Some of the staging may be even more in-depth, but in general, its designed to prepare a more tailored approach to your disease. Your care team will be able to explain any new terms and what they mean for you.
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Checking The Lymph Nodes
The usual treatment is surgery to remove the cancer. Before your surgery you have an ultrasound scan to check the lymph nodes in the armpit close to the breast. This is to see if they contain cancer cells. If breast cancer spreads, it usually first spreads to the lymph nodes close to the breast.
Depending on the results of your scan you might have:
- a sentinel lymph node biopsy during your breast cancer operation
- surgery to remove your lymph nodes
You may have other treatments after surgery.
Want To Learn More About Your Breast Cancer Treatment Options Were Here For You
Whether you just received your diagnosis or youre looking for new treatment options, were here to help.
If youve just been diagnosed with breast cancer, your next stop will be to meet with a nurse navigator or breast surgeon, depending on your initial diagnosis, and start building your treatment plan. We offer cancer care clinic locations across the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin, so get started by selecting a location to make an appointment at.
Stage Zero Breast Cancer: Whats The Optimal Treatment For Dcis
Before the advent of routine mammography, DCIS was rarely detected. But today, DCIS accounts for 20% of breast cancer diagnoses and would be the fifth most common cancer in women if classified independently.
Often called stage zero breast cancer, DCIS growths are confined to the inside of the breasts milk ducts, and many never develop into invasive cancers. Several treatment options are available, and opinions about the optimal treatment for DCIS vary widely among doctors.
A new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons may help women and their physicians narrow down the treatment choices.
DCIS is considered a pre-invasive cancer, but the current standard of care is to treat it like an early-stage invasive breast cancer, says Apar Gupta, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead author of the study.
However, not all treatments for invasive breast cancer may be optimal for DCIS, Gupta says. His study suggests that in most cases of DCIS, the side effects of hormone therapy may outweigh its benefits.
The CUIMC Newsroom spoke with Gupta to learn how the studys findings can help providers and their patients navigate treatment for DCIS. Below are excerpts from the conversation:
Why is DCIS treatment controversial?
How does your study help women make a decision about treatment after lumpectomy?
Is there a role for hormone therapy?
What Is Tumor Grading
Tumor grading is often useful for your treatment plan because it indicates how quickly your cancer could grow and spread to other areas of your body. To determine your breast cancer grade, a healthcare professional will need to remove some cancer cells from your body and inspect them under a microscope.
The grades are as follows:
- Grade 1 means that there are slower growing cells, and they look similar to noncancerous breast cells.
- Grade 2 means that the cancer cells are growing faster than noncancerous breast cells and do not look like normal breast cells.
- Grade 3 means that the cancer cells are more abnormal than those in other stages and that they are quickly growing, spreading, or both.
The higher the grade you have, the more aggressive your cancer.
Starting With Neoadjuvant Therapy
Most often, these cancers are treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. For HER2-positive tumors, the targeted drug trastuzumab is given as well, often along with pertuzumab . This may shrink the tumor enough for a woman to have breast-conserving surgery . If the tumor doesnt shrink enough, a mastectomy is done. Nearby lymph nodes will also need to be checked. A sentinel lymph node biopsy is often not an option for stage III cancers, so an axillary lymph node dissection is usually done.
Often, radiation therapy is needed after surgery. If breast reconstruction is planned, it is usually delayed until after radiation therapy is done. For some, additional chemo is given after surgery as well.
After surgery, some women with HER2-positive cancers will be treated with trastuzumab for up to a year. Many women with HER2-positive cancers will be treated first with trastuzumab followed by surgery and then more trastuzumab for up to a year. If after neoadjuvant therapy, any residual cancer is found at the time of surgery, ado-trastuzumab emtansine may be used instead of trastuzumab. It is given every 3 weeks for 14 doses. For women with hormone receptor-positive cancer that is in the lymph nodes, who have completed a year of trastuzumab, the doctor might also recommend additional treatment with an oral targeted drug called neratinib for a year.
Stage 1 Breast Cancer:
Stage 1 breast cancer is the condition when cancer is small and is in the breast tissue only. There are a few chances that it might be found in lymph nodes close to the breast, including the lymph nodes in the armpits.
In the initial stages, it is very complex to detect breast cancer. But with the help of different factors, doctors will be able to analyse it. Most doctors look at certain things when they make a diagnosis, and the main things they look at are:
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What Are The Cosmetic Results Of Breast Conservation Therapy
Eighty percent to 90 percent of women treated with modern surgery and radiotherapy techniques have excellent or good cosmetic results that is, little or no change in the treated breast in size, shape, texture or appearance compared with what it was like before treatment.
Patients with large breasts seem to have greater shrinkage of the breast after radiation therapy than do patients with smaller breasts. However, this problem usually can be overcome with the use of higher x-ray energies or with IMRT. Partial breast radiation using brachytherapy can also be considered if the patient has a small early-stage tumor. This treatment is still undergoing clinical investigation. Certain single institution studies on brachytherapy and intraoperative radiation have shown some promising results. You would need to discuss this with your doctor before or shortly after surgery to determine if you qualify for partial breast radiation.
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Breast Cancer Staging Guidelines
The TNM system is the most widely used cancer staging system and looks at the following cancer characteristics:
- Tumor The size of the tumor and whether it has grown into nearby tissue.
- Node Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. And if so, how many.
- Metastasis Indicates whether the cancer has spread to distant organs, like the lungs or liver.
But when it comes to breast cancer staging, the TNM system was expanded to include additional cancer characteristics, including:
- Estrogen-receptor status or progesterone-receptor status Whether the cancer has estrogen or progesterone receptors. A positive status means the cancer can use either hormone to grow.
- HER2 status Whether the cancer produces HER2, a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells.
- Grade Indicates how much the cancer cells look like healthy cells.
- Oncotype DX recurrence score Indicates how likely a group of genes may respond to treatment, depending on ER, PR and HER2 status.
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How Treatment Can Impact Survival Of Early Stage Breast Cancer
In most cases, the earlier breast cancer is first diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of survival. Cancer cells often become more difficult to treat and may develop drug resistance once they spread. The aim of treatment for Stage 1 and 2 breast cancer is to remove the breast cancer, and any other cancer cells that remain in the breast, armpit or other parts of the body but cannot be detected. Having treatment at this stage can also reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.
Patients May Want To Think About Taking Part In A Clinical Trial
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today’s standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
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How Breast Cancer Is Treated
In cancer care, doctors specializing in different areas of cancer treatmentsuch as surgery, radiation oncology, and medical oncologywork together with radiologists and pathologists to create a patients overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary team. Cancer care teams include a variety of other health care professionals, such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors, nutritionists, and others. For people older than 65, a geriatric oncologist or geriatrician may also be involved in their care. Ask the members of your treatment team who is the primary contact for questions about scheduling and treatment, who is in charge during different parts of treatment, how they communicate across teams, and whether there is 1 contact who can help with communication across specialties, such as a nurse navigator. This can change over time as your health care needs change.
A treatment plan is a summary of your cancer and the planned cancer treatment. It is meant to give basic information about your medical history to any doctors who will care for you during your lifetime. Before treatment begins, ask your doctor for a copy of your treatment plan. You can also provide your doctor with a copy of the ASCO Treatment Plan form to fill out.
Learn more about making treatment decisions.
Stage 3 Breast Cancer
What is Stage 3 breast cancer?
Stage 3 breast cancer is when tumors are larger than earlier stages or are growing into nearby tissues, and the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. There are three categories of Stage 3 breast cancer:
- Stage 3A breast cancer In some cases, Stage 3A breast cancer indicates that the cancer spread to four to nine area lymph nodes, and there may or may not be a tumor in the breast. In other cases, it can describe a cancer that has spread less but the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters.
- Stage 3B breast cancer Stage 3B breast cancer can mean that the cancer has spread to the chest wall or to the breasts skin, causing swelling or an ulcer. It may also mean that cancer has spread to up to nine axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breast bone.
- Stage 3C breast cancer Stage 3C breast cancer means the cancer may have spread to the chest wall or breasts skin, or it has spread to 10 or more nearby lymph nodes. It can also mean the cancer has also spread to lymph nodes above or below the collarbone.
What are the options for Stage 3 breast cancer treatment?
What is the Stage 3 breast cancer treatment timeline?
The treatment timeline for Stage 3 breast cancer depends greatly on the severity, extent of spreading, the type of treatment youre undergoing and how youre responding to those treatments. For most Stage 3 cases, treatment can last anywhere from six to 12 months with hormone therapy lasting many years after.
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Stage 2 Breast Cancer
What is Stage 2 breast cancer?
Stage 2 breast cancer cells or tumors are larger than Stage 1 cancers, and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. There are two types of Stage 2 breast cancer:
- Stage 2A breast cancer Generally speaking, Stage 2A breast cancer can indicate one of the following:
- No tumor can be found in your breast, but cancer larger than 2 millimeters can be found in one to three underarm lymph nodes or near the breastbone.
- The tumor measures 2 centimeters or smaller, and has spread the nearby axillary lymph nodes.
- The cancer has not spread to area lymph nodes, however, the tumor measures between 2 and 5 centimeters.
What are the options for Stage 2 breast cancer treatment?
What is the Stage 2 breast cancer treatment timeline?
Again, it depends on what treatments or follow-up therapies are needed. Generally, the treatment timeline for Stage 2 breast cancer can last three to six months. Again, certain treatments like hormone therapies designed to stop the cancer from coming back can last for one to 10 years.
Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Breast cancer still remains a common malignancy in females, and although there are reports that the incidence is declining in certain countries, prompt diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent morbidity and mortality. The management of breast cancer is by an interprofessional team that includes an oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, a pathologist, and an oncologic nurse. With a higher emphasis on breast-conserving surgery followed by radiation, many studies report favorable results. Further, many techniques have been developed to deliver radiation to the breast and studies have shown that the risk of recurrence outside the excised lesion is similar whether the whole or partial breast is treated. The treatment of breast cancer continues to evolve, and there are now studies trying to determine the feasibility of delivering radiation intraoperatively. Because breast cancer is a heterogeneous disorder, the key is proper patient selection to achieve the highest cure rates with the least morbidity.
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Biologic And Targeted Therapies
Patients with HER2 positive breast cancer are given HER2 targeted therapy in combination with a chemotherapy backbone. The availability of HER2 targeted agents has dramatically changed the prognosis of patients with HER2 positive breast cancers. Initial trials randomizing patients to chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody directed against the HER2 receptor, demonstrated nearly 50% reduction in rate of recurrence.â At present, patients with stage I HER2 positive breast cancer often receive a regimen of paclitaxel with trastuzumab . Until United States Food and Drug Administration approval of pertuzumab in 2013, patients with stage II-III HER2 positive breast cancer received regimens with trastuzumab added to AC-T or to docetaxel and carboplatin . Recent data have shown an improvement in pathologic complete response rate when pertuzumab, an HER2 dimerization inhibitor, is added to trastuzumab in the neoadjuvant setting. Administration of dual-HER2 agents in the neoadjuvant setting is now standard for patients with stage II-III HER2 positive breast cancer., The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has also endorsed the addition of HP to chemotherapy for patients with the same burden of disease in the adjuvant setting if these therapies were not received neoadjuvantly. Recently the APHINITY trial demonstrated a small but statistically significant benefit of adjuvant HP-based over H-based therapy for one year.
Treatment Of Breast Cancer By Stage
This information is based on AJCC Staging systems prior to 2018 which were primarily based on tumor size and lymph node status. Since the updated staging system for breast cancer now also includes estrogen receptor , progesterone receptor , and HER2 status, the stages may be higher or lower than previous staging systems. Whether or not treatment strategies will change with this new staging system are yet to be determined. You should discuss your stage and treatment options with your doctor.
The stage of your breast cancer is an important factor in making decisions about your treatment options. In general, the more the breast cancer has spread, the more treatment you will likely need. But other factors can also be important, such as:
- If the cancer cells have hormone receptors
- If the cancer cells have large amounts of the HER2 protein
- If the cancer cells have a certain gene mutation
- Your overall health and personal preferences
- If you have gone through menopause or not
- How fast the cancer is growing and if it is affecting major organs like the lungs or liver
Talk with your doctor about how these factors can affect your treatment options.
Stage 0 cancers are limited to the inside of the milk duct and are non-invasive .
Ductal carcinoma in situ is a stage 0 breast tumor.
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Systemic Treatments For Stage 1 Breast Cancer
Systemic treatments, often termed add-on or adjuvant treatments, treat breast cancer throughout your body and not just at the site of the tumor.
These treatments help destroy cancer cells that have spread beyond your breast but are still too small to be spotted. They include the therapies outlined below.
Doctors may recommend chemotherapy, also called chemo, after surgery to help destroy any undetected cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also lower your risk of the cancer coming back at a later stage.
Chemotherapy may be recommended for a smaller tumor if:
- Any cancer cells were found in the lymph nodes.
- You score high on a gene test such as Oncotype DX, which shows whether chemotherapy could help treat your breast cancer and if its likely to come back after surgery.
- The cancer cells are progesterone receptor- and estrogen receptor-negative.
- The breast cancer cells are positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 various therapies can target these receptors.
Hormone therapy can be used to help slow down the growth of cancer cells in people with estrogen receptor-positive or progesterone receptor-positive cancer cells. Hormone therapy works by blocking hormone receptors on the cancer cells or by lowering the amount of estrogen produced in your body.
Its important to ask your doctor about the potential side effects of hormone therapy before you begin this treatment, so can you know what to expect.