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How Is Breast Cancer Treated In Early Stages

What Is A Primary Tumor

Treatment Options For Early Stage Breast Cancer

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.

Dilemmas Of Stage Iv Breast Cancer

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.

Genetics And Family History

Treatment for breast cancer may depend partly on having a close relative with a history of breast cancer or testing positive for a gene that increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Patients with these factors may choose a preventive surgical option, such as a bilateral mastectomy.

Clinical trials are studies in which patients volunteer to try new drugs, combinations of drugs, and methods of treatment under the careful supervision of doctors and researchers. Clinical trials are a crucial step in discovering new breast cancer treatment methods.

Emerging treatments for breast cancer being studied in clinical trials include:

  • PARP inhibitors that block protein used to repair DNA damage that occurs during cell division are being used and tested for TNBC.
  • Drugs that or prevent androgen production are being used and tested for TNBC.

If youre interested, ask your oncologist for information about available trials.

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How Do Tamoxifen Raloxifene Anastrozole And Exemestane Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

If you are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, four medications tamoxifen , raloxifene , anastrozole , and exemestane may help reduce your risk of developing this disease. These medications act only to reduce the risk of a specific type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. This type of breast cancer accounts for about two-thirds of all breast cancers.

Tamoxifen and raloxifene are in a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators . These drugs work by blocking the effects of estrogen in breast tissue by attaching to estrogen receptors in breast cells. Because SERMs bind to receptors, estrogen is blocked from binding. Estrogen is the fuel that makes most breast cancer cells grow. Blocking estrogen prevents estrogen from triggering the development of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Anastrozole and exemestane are in a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors . These drugs work by blocking the production of estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors do this by blocking the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which is needed to make estrogen.

The Brca Gene: What Does It Do

Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital on Twitter: " #BreastCancer ...

You may have heard the term BRCA genes, which refers to BRCA1 and BRCA2genes. Normally, BRCA genes help repair damage to our DNA that occurs regularly in cells throughout the human body.

Inherited BRCA mutations are abnormal changes in these genes that are passed on from a parent to a child. When a person has a BRCA mutation, their body cannot repair routine DNA damage to cells as easily. This accumulating damage to cells may help pave a path leading to cancer. Having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation or both puts a person at higher risk for cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, or pancreas or for melanoma. A persons risk for breast cancer can also be affected by other gene mutations and other factors.

Overall, just 3% to 5% of all women with breast cancer have mutations in BRCAgenes. However, BRCA mutations occur more often in certain groups of people, such as those with triple negative breast cancer , Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, and younger women with breast cancer.

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Stage Iv Breast Cancers May Be Recurrences Following Initial Treatment

Up to 5% of initial breast cancer diagnoses are of the most advanced or metastatic stage. However, this number has significantly reduced with the implementation of widespread breast cancer screening programs.

Metastatic breast cancer can appear to be a rapid deterioration of a disease that has been present for some time undetected.

But metastatic breast cancer can also be the result of a recurrence of breast cancer after successful initial treatment. Sometimes the terms local and regional recurrence indicate a return of breast cancer to the original tumor site or elsewhere in the breast or contralateral breast.

If the cancer returns in other areas of the body it is a distant metastasis or distant recurrence.

For more detail on Stage IV survival rates, recurrence rates and treatment please see our new post HERE.

Breast Cancer Is A Disease In Which Malignant Cells Form In The Tissues Of The Breast

The breast is made up of lobes and ducts. Each breast has 15 to 20 sections called lobes. Each lobe has many smaller sections called lobules. Lobules end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can make milk. The lobes, lobules, and bulbs are linked by thin tubes called ducts.

Each breast also has blood vessels and lymph vessels. The lymph vessels carry an almost colorless, watery fluid called lymph. Lymph vessels carry lymph between lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures found throughout the body. They filter lymph and store white blood cells that help fightinfection and disease. Groups of lymph nodes are found near the breast in theaxilla , above thecollarbone, and in the chest.

The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. Cancer that begins in the lobes or lobules is called lobular carcinoma and is more often found in both breasts than are other types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon type of breast cancer in which the breast is warm, red, and swollen.

See the following PDQ summaries for more information about breast cancer:

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Treatment Of Locoregional Recurrent Breast Cancer

For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

Treatment of locoregional recurrentbreast cancer , may include the following:

See the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer section for information about treatment options for breast cancer that has spread to parts of the body outside the breast, chest wall, or nearby lymph nodes.

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Can Cancer Form In Other Parts Of The Breast

Treatment of early stage breast cancer

Cancers can also form in other parts of the breast, but these types of cancer are less common. These can include:

  • Angiosarcomas. This type of cancer begins in the cells that make up the lining of blood or lymph vessels. These cancers can start in breast tissue or breast skin. They are rare.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer. This type of cancer is rare and different from other types of breast cancer. It is caused by obstructive cancer cells in the skins lymph vessels.
  • Paget disease of the breast, also known as Paget disease of the nipple. This cancer affects the skin of the nipple and areola .
  • Phyllodes tumors. These are rare, and most of these masses are not cancer. However, some are cancerous. These tumors begin in the breasts connective tissue, which is called the stroma.

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A Little Bit About The Internal Mammary Lymph Nodes

The internal mammary nodes are located behind the ribs. Ribs are made of bone, but in the front, they turn into cartilage just before they join the sternum.

So, each rib attaches to the sternum with cartilage and each of these cartilage bars is around 5 cm long. Thus, it can be very difficult to remove an internal mammary node. There is an internal mammary artery and vein along with the lymph ducts and other veins.

If you need to remove an internal mammary node, the cartilage in front needs to be cut out. Cartilage, unfortunately, does not grow back or heal and this will leave a gap which makes the rib essentially useless.

So, it is a judgement call by the surgeon as to whether or not one should attempt a surgical approach to remove internal mammary nodes with positive metastasis. This is because surgical removal is just too damaging to the function of the chest and ribs.

However, electron beam radiotherapy is an effective treatment for internal mammary nodes. The electrons penetrate to about the correct depth to reach the internal mammary nodes.

Treatment of Stage IIIa Breast Cancer

The treatment for women with stage IIIa breast cancers tends to be a modified radical mastectomy and locoregional radiotherapy.

Often, chemotherapy is given as adjuvant therapy, but in some cases , pre-operative chemotherapy is also recommended. Breast conservation is generally not a good option with stage IIIa breast cancers.

How Is Breast Cancer Treated

Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread.

Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread. People with breast cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.

  • Surgery. An operation where doctors cut out cancer tissue.
  • Chemotherapy. Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Hormonal therapy. Blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
  • Biological therapy. Works with your bodys immune system to help it fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.
  • Radiation therapy. Using high-energy rays to kill the cancer cells.

Doctors from different specialties often work together to treat breast cancer. Surgeons are doctors who perform operations. Medical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with medicine. Radiation oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with radiation.

For more information, visit the National Cancer Institutes Breast Cancer Treatment Option Overview.external icon This site can also help you find health care services.external icon

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Take Advantage Of Patient Navigators

Though intuition would tell us that people who are insured would experience shorter delays before surgery, that doesn’t appear to be true. A large 2019 study in PLoS One looked at over 1.3 million people to see how time to initial treatment affected survival. In this study, they found that with early stage breast cancer, waiting more than 35 days between diagnosis and surgery reduced survival rates. Surprisingly, uninsured people had faster times to initiation of treatment.

While the reasons weren’t certain, it was thought that perhaps those who were insured lost precious time going through prior authorization procedures for diagnostic tests and treatment. Difficulty navigating the maze of large treatment centers may also be at play, and the authors made mention of recent clinical trials showing patient navigation could have a beneficial effect on assuring timely cancer care.

Physical Emotional And Social Effects Of Cancer

PPT

In general, cancer and its treatment cause physical symptoms and side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Managing all of these effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your care that is included along with treatments intended to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer.

Palliative care focuses on improving how you feel during treatment by managing symptoms and supporting patients and their families with other, non-medical needs. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive this type of care. And it often works best when it is started right after a cancer diagnosis. People who receive palliative care along with treatment for the cancer often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report that they are more satisfied with treatment.

Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to get rid of the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy.

  • Music therapy, meditation, stress management, and yoga for reducing anxiety and stress.

  • Meditation, relaxation, yoga, massage, and music therapy for depression and to improve other mood problems.

  • Meditation and yoga to improve general quality of life.

  • Acupressure and acupuncture to help with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.

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Treatment Of Locally Advanced Or Inflammatory Breast Cancer

For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Survival Rates For Breast Cancer

Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time after they were diagnosed. They cant tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor about how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

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Stage 1b Breast Cancer Means One Of The Following Descriptions Applies:

Lymph nodes have cancer evidence with small clusters of cells between the approximate size of a pinprick to the approximate width of a grain of rice .

AND EITHER No actual tumor is found in the breast.

OR The tumor is smaller than the approximate size of a peanut .

Similar to stage 0, breast cancer at this stage is very treatable and survivable. When breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage , the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%.

Delay In Surgery And Tumor Growth: Her2 And Triple Negative Tumors

Early Stage Breast Cancer: Making Treatment Decisions

The optimal time between diagnosis and surgery can also be looked at from the standpoint of tumor growth, although the doubling rate varies between different tumors.

A 2016 study, though it didn’t look at survival, did evaluate the growth rate of breast cancers during wait time for surgery by ultrasound measurements. In this study, the average wait time between diagnosis and surgery was 31 days .

The average diameter and volume of tumors at diagnosis was 14.7 millimeters and 1.3 centimeters vs. 15.6 millimeters and 1.6 centimeters.

The growth rate of different tumors based on receptor status, however, was very different:

  • Triple-negative tumors: 1.003 percent growth each day
  • HER2 positive tumors: 0.850 percent growth each day
  • Luminal B/A tumors : 0.208/0.175 percent growth each day

As noted, tumors that were triple negative or HER2 positive grew much faster. This was also linked to an increase in stage based on size between diagnosis and surgery, with 18 percent of triple-negative tumors increasing versus only 2 to 3 percent of estrogen receptor positive tumors changing. Since stage is linked with survival rates, this study also supports earlier surgery, especially for people with triple negative or HER2 positive tumors.

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The Tnm System The Grading System And Biomarker Status Are Combined To Find Out The Breast Cancer Stage

Here are 3 examples that combine the TNM system, the grading system, and the biomarker status to find out the Pathological Prognostic breast cancer stage for a woman whose first treatment was surgery:

If the tumor size is 30 millimeters , has not spread to nearby lymph nodes , has not spread to distant parts of the body , and is:

  • Grade 1
  • PR-

The cancer is stage IV .

What Investigations Are Necessary For Staging Breast Cancer

Breast cancer staging almost always involves a bone scan, as breast cancer is highly prone to metastasize to the bones.

During this test, medics inject a small amount of a radioactive substance into the bloodstream, where it eventually collects in the bones. A radiation scanner is then able to detect accumulations of tracer substance in the bones.

If breast cancer spreads beyond the breast, 25% of the time it goes into bones first.

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How Much Do Anastrozole And Exemestane Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer

Studies have shown that both anastrozole and exemestane can lower the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at increased risk of the disease.

In one large study, taking anastrozole for five years lowered the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer by 53 percent. In another study, taking exemestane for three years lowered the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer by 65 percent.

The most common side effects seen with anastrazole and exemestane are joint pains, decreased bone density, and symptoms of menopause .

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/31/2018.

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