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Last Updated: Feb 05, 2020

Breast Cancer - Know The Stages & Symptoms You Should Be Aware Of!

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Dr. Mukul RoyOncologist • 22 Years Exp.MBBS, DNB ( Radiation Oncology), Fellowship in Uro Oncology, Fellowship in Brachytherapy
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What do Sheryl Crow, Kylie Minogue and Angelina Jolie have in common; they are all breast cancer survivors. Being diagnosed with cancer is a scary thought but it should come as a relief that many types of cancer can be cured, breast cancer being one of them. However, this depends largely on the stage of diagnosis. Hence, it is essential to understand and recognize the symptoms of this disease.

Breast cancer can affect men and women. However, it is more common amongst women. A lump in the breast is usually the first sign of breast cancer. This may feel like a small pea or make part of the breast tissue denser thereby changing the contours of the breast. Some people may also notice a clear discharge from the nipple. This can be easily felt during a routine breast examination at home. If you feel something along these lines, you must consult a doctor immediately.

Along with a physical examination, your doctor may ask for a biopsy of the breast tissue, blood tests, X rays etc to determine a breast cancer diagnosis. If you do have breast cancer, these tests will also help the doctor find out what stage the cancer is at. There are 4 stages of breast cancer:

  1. Stage I: From this level onwards, the cancer is said to be invasive. In Stage IA the cancer cells spread to the fatty tissue while in stage IB, a few cancer cells can also be seen in a few lymph nodes.
  2. Stage II: In stage IIA, a small tumor may be seen in the breast. In Stage IIB this tumour may be as big as a walnut. Cancer may or may not affect the lymph nodes at this stage.
  3. Stage III: At this stage, cancer is considered to be in its advanced stage and is harder to treat. In Stage IIIA cancer cells can be found in up to 9 lymph nodes around the breast. In Stage IIIB the tumour advances into the chest wall and skin surrounding the breast. In Stage IIIC more than 10 lymph nodes may be affected.
  4. Stage IV: This is also known as the Metastatic stage. In this stage, the cancer cells would have spread beyond the breasts and lymph nodes. Common organs to be affected are the lungs, brain, bones and liver.

Treatment for breast cancer depends on many factors including the type of cancer, the speed at which it is growing, the stage of diagnosis and the patient’s overall health.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!