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What Is Early Stage Breast Cancer

How Do Immunotherapy Antibody Drugs Work

Early Stage Breast Cancer An Introduction

Cancer cells want to survive, and they want to figure out a way to outsmart the body and one trick that they have is they say, well, why don’t I turn off the immune cells because the immune cells job is to find foreign things that don’t belong and so your immune system should be killing your cancer, but again, the cancer doesn’t want to be killed so it turns off this blocker, this PD-L1 receptor saying, “Hey, don’t kill me, immune system.” But these new antibodies can shut that blocker off so your immune system can be activated and kill your cancer.

I will say that it was a big thing for us to see a drug that’s going to finally improve survival for women with triple-negative breast cancer and so again, I think a very big breakthrough to have the availability of immunotherapy. Another really exciting change for triple-negative breast cancer is the first approval for an antibody-drug conjugate. The drug is called sacituzumab govitecan also known as IMMU-132.

The Trodelvy or sacituzumab govitecan, it’s a very clever drug because what it’s doing is it’s taking an antibody that’s targeting a receptor called the TROP2 receptor, which is on the vast majority of triple-negative breast cancers and tagged to that antibody is a very potent chemo drug. Lots of chemo drugs are tagged to that antibody, and so the antibody binds to the cancer cell that has that receptor on it and then that antibody gets taken into the cancer cell and releases the chemotherapy into the cancer cell.

Results Apply To Women Who Have Hormone

A study, the results of which have just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that a significant proportion of women who have early stage breast cancer will be treated without the use of chemotherapy.

The study, which involved approximately 5,000 women worldwide, including approximately 250 Irish patients, found there was no difference after five years in the outcomes for postmenopausal women who had received chemotherapy as well as hormone therapy, when compared with those who had received hormone therapy only.

Approximately 3,500 Irish women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, of whom approximately 370 each year will now be spared the negative side effects of chemotherapy as a result of the study.

Chemotherapy is a life-saving treatment for those who need it, but can result in a range of negative side effects, including temporary nausea and hair loss, or long term side effects such as damage to the cells of certain organs.

The results of the study, which had earlier been reported to a cancer conference in the US, will change practice worldwide, according to Irish consultant oncologist, Cathy Kelly, one of the authors of the report in the peer-reviewed US journal.

Prof Kelly was the lead investigator in Ireland for the study, which was funded by the US National Cancer Institute and involved study sites in nine countries, including Ireland.

Meaningful trial

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Radiation Therapy For Early

Oncologists recommend radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery because it lowers the likelihood that cancer will return by killing the remaining cancer cells.

External radiation therapy is a common way to treat breast cancer. The patient comes into the office 5 days a week for 6-8 weeks for a short treatment with the linear accelerator. It doesn’t hurt but is very time-consuming. There are also some side effects like fatigue, redness, and sensitivity of the skin where the radiation is aimed.

For patients with early-stage breast cancer, another type of radiation therapy may be an option called High Dose Rate Brachytherapy. For this type of internal radiation treatment, a tube is inserted in the breast and left there. Over the course of 5 days , a radioactive pellet is inserted into the tube to treat the area inside the breast where the cancer was located. The pellet is removed and then replaced again a few times each day. Once the five days are over, the tube is removed and the treatment is complete. This comes with fewer side effects compared to external radiation and it shortens the overall treatment time.

Your radiation oncologist, who works closely with your breast surgeon and medical oncologist, will determine if HDR internal radiation therapy is an option for you.

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Playing An Active Role

You play an active role in making treatment decisions by understanding your breast cancer diagnosis, your treatment options and possible side effects.

Together, you and your health care provider can choose treatments that fit your values and lifestyle.

The National Academy of Sciences released the report, Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis in 2013. Susan G. Komen® was one of 13 organizations that sponsored this study.

The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:

  • Ensure cancer patients understand their diagnoses so they can make informed treatment decisions with their health care providers
  • Develop a trained and coordinated workforce of cancer professionals
  • Focus on evidence-based care

How Does Breast Cancer Start

Breast Cancer Stages

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast grow out of control. Different kinds of breast cells develop into different . Most breast cancers begin in the breast ducts or lobules . These are known respectively as invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Other less common types of breast cancer include inflammatory breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ.

Though breast cancer is most common in women, men can develop it as well. A mans lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

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What Is Dense Breast Tissue

Breasts are made up of lobules, ducts, and fatty and fibrous connective tissue.

  • Lobules produce milk and are often called glandular tissue.
  • Ducts are the tiny tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple.
  • Fibrous tissue and fat give breasts their size and shape and hold the other structures in place.

Your breast tissue may be called dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat in the breasts. Having dense breast tissue is common. Some women have more dense breast tissue than others. For most women, breasts become less dense with age. But in some women, theres little change.

What Does It Mean To Have Stage 1 Breast Cancer

In Stage 1 breast cancer, cancer is evident, but it is contained to only the area where the first abnormal cells began to develop. The breast cancer has been detected in the early stages and can be very effectively treated.

Stage 1 can be divided into Stage 1A and Stage 1B. The difference is determined by the size of the tumor and the lymph nodes with evidence of cancer.

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How Is The Stage Determined

The staging system most often used for breast cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system. The most recent AJCC system, effective January 2018, has both clinical and pathologic staging systems for breast cancer:

  • The pathologic stage is determined by examining tissue removed during an operation.
  • Sometimes, if surgery is not possible right away or at all, the cancer will be given a clinical stage instead. This is based on the results of a physical exam, biopsy, and imaging tests. The clinical stage is used to help plan treatment. Sometimes, though, the cancer has spread further than the clinical stage estimates, and may not predict the patients outlook as accurately as a pathologic stage.

In both staging systems, 7 key pieces of information are used:

  • The extent of the tumor : How large is the cancer? Has it grown into nearby areas?
  • The spread to nearby lymph nodes : Has the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes? If so, how many?
  • The spread to distant sites : Has the cancer spread to distant organs such as the lungs or liver?
  • Estrogen Receptor status: Does the cancer have the protein called an estrogen receptor?
  • Progesterone Receptor status: Does the cancer have the protein called a progesterone receptor?
  • Her2 status: Does the cancer make too much of a protein called Her2?
  • Grade of the cancer : How much do the cancer cells look like normal cells?

In addition, Oncotype Dx® Recurrence Score results may also be considered in the stage in certain circumstances.

Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

Treatment Options For Early Stage Breast Cancer

There are several risk factors that increase your chances of getting breast cancer. However, having any of these doesnt mean you will definitely develop the disease.

Some risk factors cant be avoided, such as family history. You can change other risk factors, such as quitting smoking, if you smoke. Risk factors for breast cancer include:

While there are risk factors you cant control, following a healthy lifestyle, getting regular screenings, and taking any preventive measures your doctor recommends can help reduce your risk for developing breast cancer.

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How A Breast Cancers Stage Is Determined

Your pathology report will include information that is used to calculate the stage of the breast cancer that is, whether it is limited to one area in the breast, or it has spread to healthy tissues inside the breast or to other parts of the body. Your doctor will begin to determine this during surgery to remove the cancer and look at one or more of the underarm lymph nodes, which is where breast cancer tends to travel first. He or she also may order additional blood tests or imaging tests if there is reason to believe the cancer might have spread beyond the breast.

The breast cancer staging system, called the TNM system, is overseen by the American Joint Committee on Cancer . The AJCC is a group of cancer experts who oversee how cancer is classified and communicated. This is to ensure that all doctors and treatment facilities are describing cancer in a uniform way so that the treatment results of all people can be compared and understood.

In the past, stage number was calculated based on just three clinical characteristics, T, N, and M:

  • the size of the cancer tumor and whether or not it has grown into nearby tissue
  • whether cancer is in the lymph nodes
  • whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body beyond the breast

Numbers or letters after T, N, and M give more details about each characteristic. Higher numbers mean the cancer is more advanced. Jump to more detailed information about the TNM system.

Jump to a specific breast cancer stage to learn more:

Grading For Breast Cancer

Tumour grading describes how active the cells are and how quickly the tumour is likely to grow. To determine tumour grade, a pathologist will study the tumour tissue removed during a biopsy under a microscope.

  • Grade 1 Cancer cells look a little different to normal cells. These tumours are usually slow-growing.
  • Grade 2 Cancer cells do not look like normal cells. They tend to grow faster than grade 1 cancer cells.
  • Grade 3 Cancers cells look very different from normal cells. They tend to grow and spread rapidly.

The breast cancers grade is used to help predict your likely outcome and determine which treatments are likely to be the most effective.

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What Should A Person With Stage 0 Or Stage 1 Breast Cancer Expect Regarding Treatment

Even though Stage 0 breast cancer is considered non-invasive, it does require treatment, typically surgery or radiation, or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy is usually not part of the treatment regimen for earlier stages of cancer.

Stage 1 is highly treatable, however, it does require treatment, typically surgery and often radiation, or a combination of the two. Additionally, you may consider hormone therapy, depending on the type of cancer cells found and your additional risk factors. Like stage 0, Chemotherapy is often not necessary for earlier stages of cancer.

Material on this page courtesy of National Cancer Institute

Checking The Lymph Nodes

Visual Guide to The Stages of Breast Cancer

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.

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Early Stage Breast Cancer: What Is It What To Expect

One of the most important factors in beating any type of cancer is early detection. Because breast cancer doesn’t usually show signs in the early stages, a screening mammogram is typically the way it’s found. Thanks to more women getting their mammograms on a regular schedule, breast cancer specialists are caring for more patients with cancer in its earlier stages. How does that look different from later-stage cancer treatment, and how do the outcomes differ?

Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy And Neoadjuvant Her2

With neoadjuvant chemotherapy, all the chemotherapy to treat the breast cancer is usually given before surgery . If the tumor doesnt get smaller with the first combination of chemotherapy drugs, other combinations can be tried.

If your tumor is HER2-positive, you may get neoadjuvant trastuzumab and neoadjuvant pertuzumab , but not at the same time as the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin .

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What Is Stage Ii Breast Cancer

Stage II describes cancer that is in a limited region of the breast but has grown larger. It reflects how many lymph nodes may contain cancer cells. This stage is divided into two subcategories.

Stage IIA is based on one of the following:

  • Either there is no tumor in the breast or there is a breast tumor up to 20 millimeters , plus cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • A tumor of 20 to 50 millimeters is present in the breast, but cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IIB is based on one of these criteria:

  • A tumor of 20 to 50 millimeters is present in the breast, along with cancer that has spread to between one and three nearby lymph nodes.
  • A tumor in the breast is larger than 50 millimeters, but cancer has not spread to any lymph nodes.

N Categories For Breast Cancer

What are the Surgery Options for Early Stage Breast Cancer?

N followed by a number from 0 to 3 indicates whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the breast and, if so, how many lymph nodes are involved.

Lymph node staging for breast cancer is based on how the nodes look under the microscope, and has changed as technology has improved. Newer methods have made it possible to find smaller and smaller collections of cancer cells, but experts haven’t been sure how much these tiny deposits of cancer cells affect outlook.

Its not yet clear how much cancer in the lymph node is needed to see a change in outlook or treatment. This is still being studied, but for now, a deposit of cancer cells must contain at least 200 cells or be at least 0.2 mm across for it to change the N stage. An area of cancer spread that is smaller than 0.2 mm doesn’t change the stage, but is recorded with abbreviations that indicate the type of special test used to find the spread.

If the area of cancer spread is at least 0.2 mm , but still not larger than 2 mm, it is called a micrometastasis . Micrometastases are counted only if there aren’t any larger areas of cancer spread. Areas of cancer spread larger than 2 mm are known to affect outlook and do change the N stage. These larger areas are sometimes called macrometastases, but are more often just called metastases.

NX: Nearby lymph nodes cannot be assessed .

N0: Cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.

N1c: Both N1a and N1b apply.

N3: Any of the following:

N3a: either:

N3b: either:

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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.

What Should I Do If I Have Dense Breast Tissue

If your mammogram report says that you have dense breast tissue, talk with your provider about what this means for you. Be sure that your doctor or nurse knows your medical history and if theres anything in your history that increases your risk for breast cancer.

Any woman whos already in a high-risk group should have an MRI along with her yearly mammogram.

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