Breast Cancer is one of the leading cancers which affect women. This is also one of the most occurring types of cancer which affects people. There is a lump formation in the beginning which keeps on increasing as the tissues and cells start getting infected with cancer cells. It is a very painful as well as severe disease which leads to life-threatening consequences at times. In order to raise awareness about breast cancer, we at OnlyMyHealth are running a month long campaign to promote breast health and inform people about breast cancer.
We consulted our expert Dr. Vishnu Chandra, Cancer specialist in Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy from Vozart Healthcare Hospital, Mumbai. He told us that breast cancer progresses through different stages, which can be determined by symptoms and diagnostic tools. It affects areas near breasts and slowly other parts of the body. Thanks to advancement in technology that now we are able to diagnose breast cancer at different levels and stages and provide best possible treatment available to us for now. Prompt diagnosis, prognosis and treatment can actually save a person’s life and prevent her from misshapenness. Hence today we are going to discuss about different stages in breast cancer and subtypes that lead to different forms of breast cancer.
Subtypes of Breast Cancer
Just like other cancer, breast cancer is also divided among sub-types. These are classified depending upon the histological, molecular and functional aspects of how the cancer reacts to the disease.
1. Histological Subtypes
This type of breast cancer is based on the location of development of cancer cells in the body. IT develops in the breast and is non-invasive in nature. Histological sub category of breast cancer is to know about distant tissues that get affected by cancer cells. In this type of cancer, the cancer breaks out through the walls of ducts and surrounding tissues that are present on the breasts. There are 2 sites where this sub-type of breast cancer is found-
- Invasive ductal- where the cancer invades tissues through ducts
- Infiltrating- pushes breast tissue further
- Mucinous – cancer cells that go beyond the tissues and affect the milk glands and ducts
- Medullary- it is like ductal cancer that is soft and resembles brain
2. Molecular Subtype
Another subtype of breast cancer is molecular sub-type, in this, there is analysis of tumour. Depending on the gene of the sub type, classification of breast cancer is done. It can be of the following designs or types- basal, HER-2 enriched, normal, Luminal A or B, Claudin-low.
3. Functional Subtype
Based on the type of cells, cancer develops on the stem cells of the breasts. This sub-type of breast cancer is known as functional subtype breast cancer. Basically stem cells are mother cells which are responsible for regeneration of the tissues. If the tumour affects these stem cells, then the situation gets worse and it creates complications. There are two types of stem cells-
- Mammary Stem Cells
- Cancer Stem Cells
What are the Stages of Breast Cancer?
Different stages of breast cancer determine the level or seriousness and adversity it might cause on the person’s health. As the stage or level increases, it becomes more difficult to cure cancer. Breast cancer is divided into 8 stages from 0-4.
In this stage the tumour remains confined to the milk-producing tube or gland. Because of this it does not cause any serious problems or adversities. If breast cancer is diagnosed at this stage, then it might be treated efficiently and the person can recover from this stage.
In this stage the breast tissues start getting infected with cancer cells and the cancer starts spreading. The cancer may range or measure about 0.75 inches in stage-1. Lump formation starts to get visible and you may get symptoms that may indicate cancer and serious illness. Weakness becomes more prominent from stage-1.
In stage 2A, the tumour spreads through the lymph nodes and starts affecting the breast bone present in the body. Now the cancer measures more than stage one and it might spread in the lymph nodes and surrounding the breast region. Stage 2A might go upto 2 inches from 0.75 inch and it starts becoming a serious threat in this period. If breast cancer is not diagnosed at this stage, then the probability of sustaining cancer reduces. Hence if there are symptoms indicating breast cancer, then immediately start getting treatment.
In this stage the tumour spreads through the lymph nodes in the armpits but not exactly to the armpits. Breast cancer becomes more than 2 inches which becomes a serious threat to her life. In this stage a person feels similar symptoms as of stage 2A and it is important to get diagnosed in order to avoid complications.
Another crucial stage is 3A, in this stage around 3-9 lymph nodes get affected in the armpit, the inflammation becomes more and it starts creating problems in your daily routine. In this case you may feel the following-
- Extreme weakness in the body
- Pain in the breasts and near armpits
- Increased symptoms of cancer
In stage 3A, the cancer spreads more than 2 inches and it becomes difficult to control the cancer from this stage. Severe therapies and steroids are needed to control cancer cells and recover the person from going to further stages.
In this stage, breast cancer spreads rapidly and starts affecting chest wall due to heavy inflammation of cancer cells present in the region. It may be very dangerous and result to other health diseases as well.
In this particular stage, the tumour affects armpits, chest wall as well as collar nodes. Because of this, movement of the person gets restricted. She may start having terrible pain in the breast region and it becomes difficult for the person to stay without pain killers and steroids. If the treatment is not availed at this stage, then it may also lead to death of that person. Stage 3C is almost the dead end from where treatments also get less effective due to increased rate of infection.
Treatment for stage 4 is still not available, there are only therapies and treatments done in other stages to prevent a person from death and prolong his life for some more time. In this last stage, the tumour spreads to distant organs and makes them inefficient. Breast cancer may spread to lungs, bones and other organs which might stop functioning in a while.
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