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The Stages of Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer originates in your breast tissue. It happens when cells in your breast grow and divide in an uncontrolled way that creates a tumor. Like other cancers, breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding your breast. It can also spread to other parts of your body and form new tumors. 

The Stages of Breast Cancer

  • Stage 0. The disease is non-invasive or has not broken out of your breast ducts.
  • Stage 1. The cancer cells have spread to the nearby breast tissue.
  • Stage 2. The tumor is either smaller than 2 centimeters across and has spread to underarm lymph nodes or larger than 5 centimeters across but hasn’t spread to underarm lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3. At this stage, cancer has spread beyond the point of origin or may invade nearby tissue and lymph nodes. However, it still does not spread to distant organs. 
  • Stage 4. This stage is known as the metastatic stage because cancer has spread to areas away from your breasts, such as your bones, liver, lungs, or brain. 

How Fast Do Breast Tumors Grow?

Studies show that even though breast cancer happens more often now than it did in the past, it doesn’t grow any faster than it did decades ago. On average, breast cancers double in size every 180 days or about every 6 months. However, the growth of cancer depends on several factors. Some factors that affect or contribute to the growth of breast cancer are genetics, age, subtype, stages, and grade.

Breast Cancer Tumor Sizes

Breast cancer tumors are divided into five categories based on size:

  • T0. This size of the tumor is considered noninvasive as it is very small and hasn’t spread.
  • T1. This tumor is less than 2 centimeters. It may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • T2. This tumor is slightly larger, between 2 and 5 centimeters. The size of some stage 2 tumors is larger, but they haven’t spread to the lymph nodes
  • T3. The tumor is greater than 5 cm.
  • T4. Tumor of any size with invasion into the chest wall or skin.

The Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

  • A lump in your breast or underarm that doesn’t go away.
  • Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone
  • Pain and tenderness, although lumps do not usually hurt
  • A flat or indented area on your breast
  • Breast changes such as a difference in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of your breast.
  • Changes in your nipple
  • Itches and sores
  • Unusual nipple discharge
  • A marble-like area under your skin 
mammogram machine

Treatment For Breast Cancer

Treatment for breast cancer depends on the severity of the condition. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Biological therapy
  • Radiation therapy

Letrozole is also used in the treatment of breast cancer. It inhibits the conversion of adrenal androgens to estrogen. It lowers the amount of estradiol and thus prevents the progression of breast cancer.

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