Did you know that about 12% of US women are likely to develop invasive breast cancer sometime in the course of their lives? However, it is assuring to know that not all women but only 3% of women suffering from breast cancer are seen to actually die of it. Well, if you are wondering what determines the degree of lethality of breast cancer in different women, here is the answer. Mortality due to breast cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and its grade.
The stage of the breast tumor determines its size and the extent to which it is spread; the grade of the breast tumor determines its degree of abnormality and the rate of its growth. Staging and grading of cancer are the medical procedures that are followed to establish the stage and grade of a tumor, to know its severity and its prognosis in an individual.
This information will help cancer specialists to know the course of treatment they have to follow for an individual with breast cancer. The lesser the staging and grading values, the lesser is the severity of the breast cancer, in an individual. Staging and grading of breast cancer is done at the time of diagnosis of the disease.
Breast Cancer Staging And Grading
Staging of breast cancer requires one to undergo tests such as mammograms, chest X-Rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Staging is done in two ways- Number staging and TNM staging.
In this procedure the cancer is divided into Stages 1-4 with substages.
Stage 1 breast cancer implies that the tumor is smaller than 2 cm, and has not yet spread to the lymph nodes of the armpit. This stage of cancer marks the beginning stage. Detection of cancer at this stage and its treatment, will not cause much damage to the person suffering from it.
Stage 2 is divided into two substages, namely Stage 2A and Stage 2B. A Stage 2A breast cancer is one that is smaller than 2 cms and has spread to the lymph nodes of the armpit; is larger than 2 cm and smaller than 5 cm, but has not spread to the lymph nodes of the armpit; the breast cancer is only in the lymph nodes of the armpit.
A Stage 2 B breast tumor is one that is less than 5 cms in size, but has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm pit; one that is greater than 5 cms in size but has not spread to the lymph nodes in the armpits.
Stage 3 breast tumors can be placed under three subcategories. The Stage 3A tumors are the ones that are larger than 5 cms in size and have spread to the lymph nodes in the armpits; or they are smaller than 5 cms and found in the underarm lymph nodes and stuck with it.
Stage 3 B breast tumors are the ones that have spread to the tissue around the breast and are also found in the underarm lymph nodes. Stage 3B tumors are the ones that have spread under the breastbone, the neck and the collarbone, apart from the lymph nodes under the armpit.
Stage 4, also known as metastatic or secondary breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, where the cancer has spread to other organs of the body such as the liver, lungs or bones. Expectation of survival for persons in this stage of breast cancer is quite improbable.
Along with number staging addition of the letters T, N or M give further information about this cancer. T indicates the size of the cancer, N its extent of spreading in the underarm lymph nodes, and M its spreading to other body parts.
Grading of cancer comprises certain sub-grades. Grade 1 cancer cells are not much different from the normal cells and they grow slowly. Grade 2 cancer cells are abnormal and grow fast. Grade 3 cancer cells are abnormal to a greater extent than Grade 2 cells and grow much faster than them.
Cancer Stage Terminology
Stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancers comprise Early Breast Cancer. Stage 3 breast cancers are sometimes broadly referred to as locally advanced breast cancers. Local recurrence is used to refer to the condition of cancer returning after treatment.