Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the SEER* database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.
The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:
- Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast.
- Regional: The cancer has spread outside the breast to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or bones.
Survival For Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Many factors can influence life expectancy for women with inflammatory breast cancer. These include:
- the exact position of the cancer
- how big the cancer is and whether it has spread only to the lymph nodes or to other organs
- how abnormal the cancer cells look under the microscope
- your age
- whether the cancer cells have receptors for hormone therapies
- how well the cancer responds to treatment
Inflammatory breast cancer can develop quickly and may spread to other parts of the body. So, in general, the outlook with this type is not as good as for women diagnosed with other types of breast cancer. But doctors think that the outlook is improving as breast cancer treatment improves.
What Are The Signs That Breast Cancer Has Spread
The symptoms of MBC can vary, depending on where the cancer has spread.
- Breast cancer that has spread to the bones may cause pain, swelling, or bones that break or fracture easily.
- Lung cancer metastasized from the breast can cause shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, chronic cough, and chest pain.
- When breast cancer spreads to the liver, it can trigger abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, unusually high levels of enzymes in the liver, and yellow skin due to jaundice.
- Brain or spinal tumors caused by breast cancer thats spread can lead to persistent headaches, blurred or double vision, nausea or vomiting, seizures, and behavioral changes.
Its important to keep in mind that while several nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss, and poor appetite, may be related to MBC, they can also be caused by other factors, like depression or medication.
If you have concerns about specific symptoms, talk with your doctor to make sure they arent related to MBC.
Treatment for stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer will depend on where it has spread. It will also vary depending on the following factors:
- the level of hormone receptors and/or HER2 in the tumor
- gene mutations in the tumor
- specific symptoms
- whether women are still menstruating
- overall health
For those with stage 4 breast cancer, the primary treatments are systemic or drug therapies. These options include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy, or some combination of the four.
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How Breast Cancer Starts
The breast is a highly complex part of the human body. The female breast goes through many changes over a lifetime from birth, puberty, pregnancy and breastfeeding, right through to menopause.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, understanding the anatomy of the breast and the role each part has to play can be helpful to understand your diagnosis. It can also help you talk to your doctor about surgery and other treatment options.
In this piece we cover:-Understanding Breast Anatomy-Normal Breast Changes Through Life-How Does Cancer Start in the Breast?-How Does Cancer Spread Beyond the Breast?-Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Treating Stage Iii Breast Cancer
In stage III breast cancer, the tumor is large or growing into nearby tissues , or the cancer has spread to many nearby lymph nodes.
If you have inflammatory breast cancer: Stage III cancers also include some inflammatory breast cancers that have not spread beyond nearby lymph nodes. Treatment of these cancers can be slightly different from the treatment of other stage III breast cancers. You can find more details in our section about treatment for inflammatory breast cancer.
There are two main approaches to treating stage III breast cancer:
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Risks For Breast Cancer
A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. But sometimes breast cancer develops in women who dont have any of the risk factors described below.
Most breast cancers occur in women. The main reason women develop breast cancer is because their breast cells are exposed to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones, especially estrogen, are linked with breast cancer and encourage the growth of some breast cancers.
Breast cancer is more common in high-income, developed countries such as Canada, the United States and some European countries. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Breast cancer mostly occurs in women between 50 and 69 years of age.
What Causes Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancer cells block lymph vessels. These tubes, which are hollow, allow lymph fluid to drain out of the breast.
In most cases of IBC, cancer cells spread outward from lymph vessels. When cancer metastasizes, it affects the skin and other organs and is more difficult to treat.
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Sex Contraception And Pregnancy
You can still have sex during treatment. Its thought that chemotherapy drugs cant pass into vaginal fluids or semen, but this cant be completely ruled out as chemotherapy drugs can pass into the blood and some other body fluids. Most treatment teams will advise using barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms during treatment, and for a few days after chemotherapy is given.
If you havent been through the menopause, its important to use contraception because chemotherapy drugs can harm a developing baby in the first three months of pregnancy. Its still possible to become pregnant even if your periods become irregular or stop completely.
Your specialist will usually recommend barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms. The contraceptive pill is not usually recommended because it contains hormones. Emergency contraception such as the morning after pill can still be used.
An interuterine device can be used as long as its not the type that releases hormones. If you have a coil in place that does release hormones, such as the Mirena or Jaydess, when youre diagnosed, you may be advised to have this removed.
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Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Although the Halsted operation was revolutionary, this surgical intervention was becoming controversial and losing popularity among some surgeons. In the mid-20th century there was greater awareness of the postoperative morbidity that included disfigurement of the chest, lymphedema of the arm and occasional irradiation-induced sarcomas. Some new breast cancer patients were inclined to choose alternative treatments and even some surgeons were becoming increasingly critical of radical mastectomy although it was considered to be far more successful than any other treatment at the time. The first half of the 20th century also saw an explosion of knowledge about the biology and epidemiology of breast cancer.
Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Pinpointing breast cancer in its earliest stages isnt easy becauseare different for everyone. Sometimes there is a palpable lump or tenderness. Very often, there is neither. Generally, breast cancer shows no symptoms in the early stage.
However, there are certain changes in the breast that may indicate breast cancer in both men and women.
Whether you are a man or a woman, its important to become familiar with your breasts so you can recognize when changes occur and seek timely treatment. Know the facts and understand your risk factors for the disease, such as , by reviewing these frequently asked questions.
Types Of Cancers That Are More Likely To Go Undetected
Some cancers are more easily detected than others. For example, certain types of skin cancer can be diagnosed initially just by visual inspection though a biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
But other cancers can form and grow undetected for 10 years or more, as one study found, making diagnosis and treatment that much more difficult.
This table provides an overview of common cancers that often display little or no symptoms early on, and how theyre typically detected and diagnosed:
|Type of cancer|
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Investigations For Stages Of Breast Cancer
The following procedures may be necessary to check for metastasis:-
- bone scan
- MRI scan
- blood tests
So, after a breast cancer diagnosis, while in general, the outlook is favorable , it should really be considered a chronic condition.
But the progression is not going to be the same for everyone, even for patients with similar stages of breast cancer presentation. It is SO important to remember that each case is individual. Indeed breast cancer has been known to return even 20 years after a mastectomy, whilst in others, the progression and systemic development of the disease may be rapid.
Are you considering having NO treatment?
Anxiety, fear, panic, anger and sadness are all common emotions following a breast cancer diagnosis. If you are in the middle of a combination of these feelings, today is not a good day to make important decisions.
Here is my quick imagine a way this all gets better line of reasoning, to help you. Firstly, treatments are so effective nowadays and very well organized. Cancer research and treatments are improving all the time and the people who treat breast cancer are experienced experts.
Give the team some trust and time to explain things properly and accept the treatments. Do one step at a time, one day at a time, and you will be amazed at the results.
Add onto that the following self-help methods:-
- lots of sleep
Different Kinds Of Breast Lumps
There are different types of breast lumps. The following descriptions and illustraitons provides some details. If you have any questions, follow-up with your doctor.
BENIGNAlthough any lump formed by body cells may be referred to technically as a tumor. Not all tumors are malignant . Most breast lumps 80% of those biopsied are benign . Following are examples of the most common benign breast conditions which produce lumps.
Fibrocystic changes: This is not a disease, but rather a benign condition affecting 50 to 60 percent of all women. Fibrous breast tissue, mammary glands, and ducts overreact to the normal hormones produced during ovulation, resulting in the development of fibrous lumps and/or
numerous, small multiple cysts, . Fibrocystic changes are an exaggerated response of breast tissue to changes of ovarian hormones.
Fibrocystic changes are the most common non-cancerous breast condition. They are most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50. They are unusual after menopause unless a woman is taking hormones.
The size and tenderness of Fibrocystic lumps usually increase before menstruation, decreasing after the period ends. This condition, also known as cystic mastitis, generally disappears after menopause. Medical opinion is still divided over whether Fibrocystic disease increases the risk of breast cancer.
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How Breast Cancer Spreads And Recurs
Breast cancer is frightening enough without the fear that it could travel to other parts of the body. Metastasis is the term for the spread of cancer. About 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and roughly 40,000 will die from the disease each year. When breast cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, many women go on to live cancer-free lives.
Yet for others, the disease is metastatic at the time of diagnosis or later recurs. It’s thought that metastatic disease is responsible for around 66% of the deaths related to breast cancer. How does breast cancer spread or recur?
How Fast Breast Cancer Grows
People may wonder about growth or doubling time when considering how long to wait to begin treatment. This growth is also very important to understand if you have a lump and have been advised to simply observe it over time.
Unless your healthcare provider is extremely confident that a lump is benign, it should be evaluated right away rather than waiting.
In general, the growth of breast cancer can be quite variable, but several studies provide at least an estimate of what may be happening.
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Signs That Warrant An Immediate Trip To A Doctor
Some common cancer signs that should result in a visit to the emergency room or to a doctor as soon as possible include:
- coughing up mucus tinged with blood
- blood in stools or urine
- lump in the breast, testicles, under the arm, or anywhere that it didnt exist before
- unexplained but noticeable weight loss
- severe unexplained pain in the head, neck, chest, abdomen, or pelvis
These and other signs and symptoms will be evaluated. Screenings, such as blood and urine tests and imaging tests, will be used if your doctor thinks its appropriate.
These tests are done both to help make a diagnosis as well as rule out various causes of your signs and symptoms.
When seeing a doctor, be prepared to share the following information:
- your personal medical history, including all symptoms you have experienced, as well as when they began
- family history of cancer or other chronic conditions
- list of all medications and supplements you take
Relationships With Friends And Family
It’s not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you.
Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. However, don’t be afraid to tell them that you need some time to yourself, if that’s what you need.
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Types Of Breast Cancer
There are several different types of breast cancer, which develop in different parts of the breast.
Breast cancer is often divided into either:
- non-invasive breast cancer found in the ducts of the breast which has not spread into the breast tissue surrounding the ducts. Non-invasive breast cancer is usually found during a mammogram and rarely shows as a breast lump.
- invasive breast cancer where the cancer cells have spread through the lining of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. This is the most common type of breast cancer.
Other, less common types of breast cancer include:
- invasive lobular breast cancer
- inflammatory breast cancer
It’s possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, usually through the blood or the axillary lymph nodes. These are small lymphatic glands that filter bacteria and cells from the mammary gland.
If this happens, it’s known as secondary, or metastatic, breast cancer.
Diagnosis Of Phyllodes Tumors
Like other less common types of breast tumors, phyllodes tumors can be difficult to diagnose because doctors don’t encounter them all that often. A phyllodes tumor also can look like a more common type of benign breast growth called a fibroadenoma. A fibroadenoma is a solid, growing lump of normal breast cells that is the most common kind of breast mass, especially in younger women.
Two key differences between fibroadenomas and phyllodes tumors are that phyllodes tumors tend to grow more quickly and develop about 10 years later in life in the 40s as opposed to the 30s. These differences can help doctors distinguish phyllodes tumors from fibroadenomas.
Diagnosing phyllodes tumors usually involves a combination of steps:
Some experts believe it is better to use excisional biopsy if a phyllodes tumor is suspected. Examining the whole tumor is often necessary to make the right diagnosis. The smaller tissue samples taken during core needle biopsy may not be enough to confirm that a lump is a phyllodes tumor.
A pathologist then examines the tumor tissue under a microscope to make the diagnosis. He or she also classifies the phyllodes tumor as benign, borderline, or malignant. In a benign tumor:
- the edges are well-defined
- the cells are not dividing rapidly
- the stromal cells still look somewhat like normal cells
- there is not an “overgrowth” of stromal cells there are epithelial cells as well
In a malignant tumor:
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Trends In Research And Therapy
The therapeutic options for breast cancer patients have increased dramatically in the 21st century with increasing efforts towards the development of more efficient and effective screening, diagnosis and treatment options. The landscape of therapy for patients with metastatic breast cancer is also changing. For instance, many ongoing studies are exploring strategies to overcome endocrine resistance, target TNBC and develop new anti-HER2 therapies. There are promising advances in immunotherapy and new directions in inhibiting aberrant angiogenesis, one of the hallmarks of tumors . Our understanding of the molecular characteristics of tumors in general, coupled with better screening methods has helped shape the recent advances in breast cancer treatment. Neoadjuvant therapy, for example, has become a standard recourse. There are strategies not only for HER2- and ER-positive cancers, but also new options in the management and treatment of TNBC patients .
How Fast Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Spread
Like all cells, breast cancer cells grow by cellular division. But because cancer cells are mutated, their growth rate can be difficult to predict.
According to the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center at Providence Portland Medical Center, breast cancer cells need to divide at least 30 times before they are detectable by physical exam.
Each division takes about 1 to 2 months, so a detectable tumor has likely been growing in the body for 2 to 5 years.
Generally speaking, the more cells divide, the bigger the tumor grows. The larger the tumor, the greater the odds that it may invade nearby tissues, the lymphatic system, or the circulatory system, and spread to other organs.
Breast cancer grading and staging can provide some clues to how aggressive your cancer is.
Grade 3 breast cancer is likely to spread faster than grade 1 or 2, for example.
that can affect how quickly your breast cancer may spread include:
are the two primary metrics used to assess breast cancer.
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