Breast cancer is one of the prevalent cancers among women worldwide. Luckily, breast cancer deaths have declined in the past decade, thanks to the availability of breast cancer screenings. Breast cancer screening includes testing for signs that the cancer is likely to develop using a mammogram that detect too small to see or feel cancers.
It is also advisable for women to perform self-breast exams by touching and feeling the breast for abnormalities such as lumps, swelling, or nipple changes. Although these exams go a long way in detecting abnormal breast changes, they are not a substitute for regular Hong Kong breast cancer screening.
If diagnosed with breast cancer, further tests are required to determine the cancer stage to develop a treatment plan. Here are the different breast cancer stages explained.
If diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, the cancer is small and restricted to the brain tissue only, or it may be in the lymph nodes surrounding the breast. Staging breast cancer can be complicated, and the doctor must consider different factors before developing a treatment plan. In most cases, the doctor uses a sample of your breast tissue to test for the grade of your cancer and female receptor hormones.
(oestrogen and progesterone), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
Stage 1 breast cancer has two categories:
- Stage 1A means that the cancer is 2cm or smaller and has not spread beyond the breast.
- Stage 1B means that tiny cancerous cells have been detected in the lymph nodes close to the breast. However, the breast tumor is 2cm or smaller, and no tumor has formed in the breast.
The usual treatment for stage 1 breast cancer is surgery to remove the cancer, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted cancer therapy. If undergoing surgery, you might have the cancerous part removed with a border of the normal breast tissue to ensure the complete elimination of the cancerous cells.
Stage 2 is also an early breast cancer diagnosis, and it means that the cancer is either in the breast or the nearby lymph nodes or both. Like in the above-discussed stage, stage 2 breast cancer also falls under two groups.
- Stage 2A indicates that no tumor or a 2cm or smaller tumor has been detected in your breast. It also suggests that the cancer cells are in 1-3 lymph nodes surrounding the breast bone or in the armpits. It could also mean that the tumor is larger than 2cm but doesn’t exceed 5cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2B indicates that the tumor is larger than 2cm but doesn’t exceed 5cm, and small parts of cancerous cells are in the lymph nodes. It may mean that the cancer has spread to 1-3lymph nodes in the armpits or near the breastbone, or the cancer is larger than 5cm but hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes.
Treatment options for stage 2 breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, targeted drug treatment, or hormone therapy. Your doctor can discuss each treatment plan’s pros and side effects to help you make an informed choice.
If diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, the cancer has spread beyond the breast to the nearby lymph nodes and breast or chest wall skin. There are three groups of stage 3 cancer, including:
- Stage 3A indicates that no tumor detected in the breast or the tumor may be any size and 4-9 lymph glands near the breastbone or under the arm. It may also indicate that the tumor is bigger than 5cm, and clusters of breast cancer cells have been detected in the lymph nodes. Lastly, it may mean that a tumor is more than 5cm large and has spread to three lymph nodes in the breastbone and lymph nodes.
- Stage 3B indicates that the tumor has spread to the chest wall or skin of the breast. The cancer may cause breakage of the skin leading to an ulcer or swelling, and it may have invaded up to 9 lymph nodes in the breastbone or armpit.
- Stage 3C indicates that there may be no tumor, or it could be of any size. However, there is cancer on the skin of the breast. It causes an ulcer or swelling and has spread to the chest wall. It may have spread to 10 or more lymph nodes in the armpit, below or above the collarbone, or breastbone.
Hong Kong breast cancer screening aims to catch the cancer before it gets to this stage. Treatment options include drug treatment before surgery, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and bone strengthening treatments.
With stage 4 breast cancer, cancerous cells have spread to other body parts beyond the breast. It is known as secondary breast cancer, advanced breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer. If diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, that means the tumor can be of any size, and the lymph nodes have or may not have cancerous cells. In stage 4, the cancer has also spread to other body parts such as the lungs, bones, brain, or liver.
The treatment options depend on which body parts the cancer has affected and your general health. the doctor may also consider other factors, including:
- How fast or slow the cancer is progressing.
- Whether or not you have hit menopause.
- The treatment you have already received.
- Whether or not the cancer has receptors for different types of drug treatment.
Treatment options include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted drugs, surgery, bone strengthening treatment, and treating symptoms. Treating symptoms means that your doctor may prescribe medicines to manage the symptoms that come with the cancer.
Deciding about breast cancer treatment can be challenging, but your doctor can help you make an informed choice. Financial support from organizations like the Hong Kong cancer fund and emotional support from family and friends can help you cope with breast cancer treatment.
Breast cancer screening is vital to identify cancerous cells when they are treatable. Successful treatment is possible if the cancer is detected in the early stages.