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Does Breast Cancer Spread Fast

Types Of Breast Cancers Do They Affect How Fast The Cancer Progresses

Does breast cancer spread quickly? – Dr. Nanda Rajaneesh

One way to estimate how fast a breast cancer progresses is by looking at the doubling time, which is the amount of time it takes for a tumour to grow in size. A 2019 study found that growth differed based on the estrogen receptor status of the tumour. Specifically, certain types of breast cancer like HER2-positive breast cancer and triple-negative breast cancer grew at faster rates.

A number of different studies have also discovered other factors that contribute to the growth of breast cancer in a year, such as:

What Is Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer

Invasive breast cancer that begins in the lobules of the breast and spreads to surrounding normal tissue. It can also spread through the blood and lymph systems to other parts of the body.

Invasive lobular breast cancer is the second most common type of breast cancer. Over 10% of invasive breast cancers are invasive lobular carcinomas.

Though mammograms are helpful and important, they are less likely to detect invasive lobular breast cancer than other types of breast cancers. Invasive lobular cancer doesnt always appear clearly on a mammogram, instead an MRI might be needed.

Future Research On Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Recent research on inflammatory breast cancer has focused on the work on genetic determinants that underlie the inflammatory breast cancer phenotype.

Indeed, scientists have already identified some of the genes that are present in the development and progression of this disease. However, there has been no real genetic breakthrough in the treatment of the disease.

For the most part, inflammatory breast cancer has a distinct molecular profile, though it does share some genetic changes with other breast cancers.

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Ductal Carcinoma In Situ

Ductal carcinoma in situ is a non-invasive breast cancer. In situ means in place. With DCIS, the abnormal cells are contained in the milk ducts of the breast and have not spread to nearby breast tissue.

Although DCIS is non-invasive, without treatment, the abnormal cells could progress to invasive breast cancer over time. So, you may also hear the terms pre-invasive or pre-cancerous to describe DCIS.

Learn about breast anatomy.

Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

How Fast Does Breast Cancer Spread?  Health Essentials ...

Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by a doctor.

You should also see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • discharge from either of your nipples, which may be streaked with blood
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • dimpling on the skin of your breasts
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.

Find out more about the symptoms of breast cancer.

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A Different Treatment Schedule

Treatments for advanced breast cancer may go on without an end date to keep the disease under control. You’ll visit the clinic on a regular basis, and you’ll get to know your health care team.

“If the treatment works, you’ll stay on it as long as it’s working well without side effects,” says Rita Nanda, MD, of the University of Chicago’s breast cancer program. If it’s not working well or has bad side effects, your doctor will try different treatments.

Your doctor is likely to suggest chemotherapy, because it travels through your entire body. “Metastatic breast cancer is a whole-body disease,” Mayer says.

You will also need hormone therapy if your cancer is sensitive to the hormone estrogen or progesterone. Some people can take targeted treatments, which are drugs that work directly on the changes within cancer cells. These combinations can make chemotherapy work better.

Sometimes surgery or radiation can help ease symptoms.

Treatment Of Stage Iii Breast Cancers

Sometimes large breast cancers invade into muscles or attach to major arteries, veins or nerve trunks, which makes them impossible to surgically remove completely.

So, for these patients, the treatment usually starts with radiation or chemo to try to shrink it first, before surgery. But even a large tumor that has not attached itself onto muscle can, sometimes, be completely removed. There is no direct relationship between tumor size and whether or not it may be treated surgically or not.

Obviously, Stage 3 breast cancers that surgeons can completely remove do tend to have a significantly better prognosis than inoperable stage 3 breast cancers. However, some breast tumors, particularly those that are ER-positive, respond very well to chemotherapy. So well, in fact, that they actually downstage.

So, it is difficult to predict the overall prognosis for stage 3 breast cancer, as it will vary from individual to individual. If the response to chemotherapy is favorable, the overall survival rate is around 72%.

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Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Cancer begins when a normal breast cell undergoes a number of mutations in genes that control the growth of the cell. These mutations may occur over a long period of time, even decades, before a cancer cell forms.

A cancer cell must divide on average 30 times before it forms a mass that can be felt in the breast. Since tumor cells multiply and divide exponentiallyone cell becomes two, two cells become four, and so ona tumor will increase more rapidly in size the larger it is.

That said, not all cells are dividing at one time, and growth can be different at different stages in the formation of a tumor. Compared with many types of cancer, breast cancer has a “low growth fraction,” meaning that the proportion of cancer cells that are in an active cell cycle is low.

Some tumors, such as some leukemias and lymphomas, have much higher growth fractions .

Noninvasive Or Preinvasive Breast Cancers

How long does it take for breastcancer to spread?

Noninvasive cancers remain confined to the primary site of development, but are always treated, because it is not possible to know if they will become invasive or not. Noninvasive breast cancers include:

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Treatment For Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The treatment for inflammatory breast cancer can be slightly different to other types of breast cancer.


You usually have chemotherapy as your first treatment. This is called neo adjuvant chemotherapy. It helps to control the cancer cells in the breast and reduces the swelling. It also aims to destroy any cancer cells that might have spread elsewhere in the body.


After chemotherapy you have surgery unless there is a reason why this isn’t suitable for you. You are most likely to have your whole breast removed .

Some women might be able to have breast conserving surgery. For this type of surgery, the surgeon removes the area of cancer and a surrounding area of healthy tissue. But for most women, mastectomy is the best option.

The surgeon usually removes the lymph nodes under your armpit.


After surgery you have radiotherapy to the remaining breast tissue. This is to help stop the cancer coming back.

Other drug treatment you may have

You have hormone therapy tablets for some years if your breast cancer has hormone receptors. Your doctor might recommend that you also have targeted cancer therapy, such as trastuzumab and pertuzumab, if your cancer has receptors for those drugs.

Breast reconstruction

You may be able to have breast reconstruction after you have finished your treatment . Do ask your surgeon, they can tell you whether this is suitable for you.

What Is A Primary Tumor

The primary tumor refers to the original breast tumor. So, any metastases are either secondary tumors, or simply metastatic breast cancer.

Note, when breast cancer spreads to the bones, it is not bone cancer, it is metastatic breast cancer in the bones.

Metastatic describes a breast cancer that has already spread to distant areas and organs of the body. Metastatic cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Furthermore, the most common sites for breast cancer to metastasize to are the:-

  • bones
  • liver
  • lungs.

Once breast cancer is at this most advanced metastatic stage, the odds of completely curing the breast cancer are quite low. .

The treatment of metastatic breast cancer, after a reasonable effort, will often focus on the quality of life and relieving symptoms rather than a cure.

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How Quickly Breast Cancer Develops

You may have heard remarks that cancer has been present for five years before it is diagnosed, and this may sometimes be true.

The actual time it takes for breast cancer to grow from a single cancer cell to a cancerous tumor is unknown, as estimates based on doubling time assume that this is constant throughout the duration of tumor growth.

If doubling time were constant, cancer with a doubling time of 200 days would take 20 years to develop into a detectable tumor, and a doubling time of 100 days would take 10 years to be evident on exam.

In contrast, a breast tumor with a doubling time of 20 days would take only 2 years to develop.

Since the majority of studies have found the average doubling time to be between 50 days and 200 days, it’s likely that most breast cancers that are diagnosed began at least 5 years earlier .

Types Of Breast Cancer

How fast does breast cancer progress in a year?

There are several types of breast cancer, and any of them can metastasize. Most breast cancers start in the ducts or lobules and are called ductal carcinomas or lobular carcinomas:

  • Ductal carcinoma. These cancers start in the cells lining the milk ducts and make up the majority of breast cancers.
  • Lobular carcinoma. This is cancer that starts in the lobules, which are the small, tube-like structures that contain milk glands.

Less common types of breast cancer include:

  • Medullary

  • Metaplastic

  • Papillary

  • Inflammatory breast cancer is a faster-growing type of cancer that accounts for about 1% to 5% of all breast cancers.

  • Pagets disease is a type of cancer that begins in the ducts of the nipple.

Breast cancer can develop in women and men. However, breast cancer in men is rare. Less than 1% of all breast cancers develop in men.

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Diagnosis Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer Can Be Inconclusive At First

The cause of the appearance of the breast in IBC is the invasion of the skin lymphatics by breast cancer cells. The obstructed lymph vessels are responsible for producing the characteristic skin changes that can mimic a benign inflammatory process.

Standard diagnostic tests for breast cancer screening include:-

However, diagnosis can be very difficult for IBC and even the above diagnostic tests do not always diagnose IBC.


What Is Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast tissues. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Men can also develop breast cancer, however, less than 1% of breast cancers are diagnosed in men.

Cancers are a unique group of diseases caused by genetic mutations, which make certain types of cells turn abnormal and grow out of control. Most types of cancers grow into masses of tissue known as tumors. Cancer spreads when tumor cells break off from the primary tumor, migrate to other parts of the body and start growing.

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Management And Treatment Options For Inflammatory Cancer Of The Breast

For some women with IBC, the initial investigations to find a diagnosis may not confirm a benign or a malignant condition.

So, a patient may be given conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. Monitoring of the response to antibiotic therapy is very important if symptoms do not improve further investigations will be necessary.

Sometimes, a large excisional breast biopsy is needed to really figure out what is going on.

Inflammatory breast cancer cells tend to grow widely through the tissues of the breast, rather than as a single tumour. For this reason, chemotherapy drugs or radiation therapy are often given before surgery.

Why Breast Cancer Can Spread

Where Does Breast Cancer Spread?

Any type of breast cancer can spread. This happens when cancer cells get into healthy cells around the breast. If they spread, cancer cells usually go to other parts of the breast first. Lymph nodes near the breast tend to be the next place cancer cells go. From there, cancer cells can travel to other parts of the body farther from the breast.

About one in every five breast cancers are HER2-positive. This means they have extra copies of a gene that makes the HER2 protein. HER2-positive breast cancer can grow and spread faster than other breast cancers because HER2 protein speeds that growth.

Whether breast cancer spreads also depends on several other things. These include:

  • If your tumor is HER2-positive or a different type
  • The stage your cancer was when you were first diagnosed
  • The size of the tumor
  • Whether cancer was also found in nearby lymph nodes

On the positive side, treatments that aim right at the HER2 protein can work very well. These targeted medications raise the odds that you can beat the disease back.

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How Worried Should Women Be

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare disease, so the chances of your getting it are quite small. Awareness of what symptoms to look for and of how to go about having those symptoms evaluated is the most important defense against this and any disease.

Additional information about IBC can be found at:

How Quickly Breast Cancer Spreads

Since the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body is responsible for over 90 percent of deaths related to breast cancer, the question of how rapidly breast cancer spreads is very important.

Breast cancer usually spreads first to lymph nodes under the arm . Even with the involvement of lymph nodes, breast cancer is considered an early stage and is potentially curable with treatment.

When a cancer spreads to regions such as the bones, brain, lungs, or liver, however, it is considered stage IV, or metastatic breast cancer, and is no longer curable.

Most breast cancers have the potential to spread. Carcinoma in situ or stage 0 breast cancer has not yet spread beyond something known as the basement membrane. These tumors are considered non-invasive and are theoretically 100 percent curable with surgery.

All other stages of breast cancer are considered invasive and have the potential to spread. Spread to lymph nodes, even when early stage, is very important, as these tumors have essentially declared their intent to spread beyond the breasts.

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How Fast Does Cancer Spread

Cancer: Its a diagnosis you never want hear, and yet its certainly possible. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 40.8 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point of their life. Today, there are more than 14 million people living with cancer in the United States.

One of the most common questions asked after a patient learns they have cancer is how fast will it spread. Its important to know that there are many factors to consider when determining how quickly cancer cells will replicate and metastasize to other parts of the body. Some cancers, including pancreatic and ovarian cancers, can spread quickly. While others, including some skin cancers can spread slower.

Certain influencers can help determine how fast cancer may spread, including the size of the tumor, microscopic appearance of the cells , location of the tumor, and how the tumor responds to treatment often various combinations of radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. In the case of breast cancer, normally healthy chemicals including estrogen, progesterone, and the HER2/nue gene can also accelerate the tumors growth, making it difficult to gauge how quickly breast cancer can spread.

Dilemmas Of Stage Iv Breast Cancer

How Fast Does Breast Cancer Spread To Lymph Nodes ...

Indeed, there are many serious and personal questions involving stage IV breast cancer. So, overall survival is less likely, and gains from intensive breast cancer treatment are unfortunately rather modest. A serious consideration is, therefore, quality of life during the course of treatment.

These decisions tend to be a dynamic process, based on individual cases, between patients and physicians. Respect needs to be given to the expectations for treatment, the status of the disease and the patient wishes.

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More Information About The Tnm Staging System

The T category describes the original tumor:

  • TX means the tumor can’t be assessed.
  • T0 means there isn’t any evidence of the primary tumor.
  • Tis means the cancer is “in situ” .
  • T1, T2, T3, T4: These numbers are based on the size of the tumor and the extent to which it has grown into neighboring breast tissue. The higher the T number, the larger the tumor and/or the more it may have grown into the breast tissue.

The N category describes whether or not the cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes:

  • NX means the nearby lymph nodes can’t be assessed, for example, if they were previously removed.
  • N0 means nearby lymph nodes do not contain cancer.
  • N1, N2, N3: These numbers are based on the number of lymph nodes involved and how much cancer is found in them. The higher the N number, the greater the extent of the lymph node involvement.

The M category tells whether or not there is evidence that the cancer has traveled to other parts of the body:

  • MX means metastasis can’t be assessed.
  • M0 means there is no distant metastasis.
  • M1 means that distant metastasis is present.


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