Breast cancer is divided into five stages – 0 to 4, based on how advanced the cancer is. Each stage needs to be treated accordingly.
At this stage the cancer is non-invasive and is limited to the inside of the milk duct. It hasn’t spread to different parts of the body and immediate treatment can ensure it does not become an invasive type.
The treatment options available at this stage are:
Surgery: A lumpectomy is performed which eliminates cancerous cells from the body. If the cancerous cells are found throughout the breast, then a mastectomy is performed (complete removal of breast). A breast reconstruction surgery can take place at the same time.
Radiation: Radiation therapy can kill cancer cells which were missed during surgery.
Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy uses certain drugs to block oestrogen and progesterone receptors in the cancer cells thus limiting its growth.
Stage1: This stage can be divided into two subcategories – 1a and 1b. In stage 1a, the tumour is less than 2 cm in size and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes. In stage 1b, the tumour may or may not be present, but the cancerous cells have clustered together and may also be present in the lymph nodes.
Stage 2: The two subcategories for stage 2 are stage 2a and stage 2b. In stage 2a, no tumour or tumour less than 2 cm can be found. Involvement of 2 or 3 lymph nodes of armpits or breast bone area is found, or the tumour could be 5 cm in size, with no lymph node involvement.
In stage 2b, the tumour measures around 2-5 cm in size and may or may not be growing in the lymph node, along with the cancerous cells. The tumour could also be larger than 5 cm in size but not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
Stage 3: Stage 3 has three sub-categories, 3a, 3b and 3c.
Stage 3a - Tumour is more than 5 cm and spread to the lymph nodes, or no tumour detected but involvement of four to nine lymph nodes, or tumour is more than 5 cm in size.
Stage 3b - The tumour has spread to the chest wall and forms an ulcer in the skin of the breast and involves the lymph nodes
Stage 3c: Tumour may be large and invading the chest wall and involves almost 10 lymph nodes.
The treatment options available Stage 1-3 are:
For stage 1 and stage 2, surgery is the first line of treatment. After surgery, a collective treatment schedule of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy is followed. However, for stage 3, Chemotherapy or targeted therapy is the first line of treatment. Once the tumour size is brought down, surgery is attempted which is followed by radiation therapy.
In this stage the cancer is in a very advanced condition. The cancer has spread to the other parts of body. Hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy may be done. Palliative treatment to decrease the intensity of symptoms is also initiated.