BREAST CANCER EDUCATION
What does it mean and will I be ok?
A diagnosis like breast cancer always prompts more questions. Technology has come a long way, you can still thrive and beat your diagnosis - learn as much as you can an empower yourself so you know what questions to ask and what the answers mean.
There are many factors that determine your prognosis:
size of the cancer
the type of breast cancer
whether or not your lymph nodes are involved
the cancer's hormone receptor status
how quickly it is growing
your age and menopausal status
your overall health and wellness
the likelihood of recurrence
Ask the important questions.
It is of the utmost importance that you can have an honest and open dialogue with your care team.
Things you need to know:
is this invasive cancer?
what type of cancer is this?
are there lymph nodes involved?
the cancer's hormone receptor status
when can I have genetic testing?
will I need chemotherapy, radiation therapy or endocrine therapy?
are there alternative treatments or clinical trials?
what is the standard of care for this type of cancer?
what if I choose to not have ________?
what if I choose to do nothing?
why do you recommend __________?
what are my other options?
T - the size of the actual tumor.
Discussed below: cancer stages
N - if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and how many lymph nodes are affected.
M - if the cancer has metastasized or spread beyond the breast tissues.
Describes in situ carcinomas. Typically used when discussing DCIS.
Cancer has not gone outside of the anatomical part where it began.
This cancer is confined still and is not invasive.
You might see this as "T0" or if "Tis" for Tumor In Situ.
Cancer has managed to invade healthy tissue.
Invasive cancer with a tumor still smaller than 2 cm and there is no lymph node involvement.
Invasive cancer that shows no tumor in the breast but microscopic invasion of cancer in the lymph nodes. OR -
There is a tumor smaller than 2 cm in the breast and microscopic invasion involving the lymph nodes.
There is no tumor in the breast but breast cancer is found in 1, 2, or 3 lymph nodes.
The tumor is still smaller than 2 cm but there is lymph node involvement.
The tumor size is between 2 cm and 5 cm, but no lymph nodes are involved.
The tumor size is between 2 cm and 5 cm and there is microscopic invasion of the lymph nodes.
The tumor size is between 2 cm and 5 cm and cancer has spread to 1, 2, or 3 lymph nodes.
The tumor size larger than 5 cm but no lymph node invasion has occurred.
There are 3 subcategories for Stage III invasive breast cancer.
Tumors larger than 5 cm in size with 1, 2, or 3 lymph nodes involved
Any size tumor with 4-9 lymph nodes involved.
Tumor of any size in which the chest wall or the skin surface and up to 9 lymph nodes are involved. (normally how inflammatory breast cancer is classified.
Tumor over 5 cm and up to 9 lymph nodes are also involved.
Cancer of any size in which 10 or more lymph nodes have become involved.
Stage IV describes metastatic or advanced breast cancer in which breast cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.
Typically breast cancer spreads via the lymphatic system to other healthy organs and tissues.
Breast cancer has a reputation of spreading to the lungs, liver, bone and brain but can also be found in other part of the body.
Grade 1/ Low Grade
Low grade cancers are slow growing, the cancer cells have not mutated in appearance too drastically yet. May also be classified as well differentiated and if this is your cell grade you have sometime to think before you act, your cancer is not going to change much or quickly.
Grade 2 / Intermediate or Moderate Grade
These cells are growing sometimes classified as moderately differentiated. They are dividing at a more rapid rate. They no longer resemble the healthy breast tissue cells around them.
Grade 3/ High Grade
These are poorly differentiated, these types of cancers are disorganized in appearance and tend to divide more rapidly in irregular patterns. While no one wants to hear they have high grade cancer, these types may respond well to targeted therapies designed to attach highly proliferating cells.