Breast cancer is one of those illnesses that has many stages to it. Not only does it have many stages, but it also has many misconceptions about it and how it works. If you are living with breast cancer, it’s easy to assume the worst-case scenario because of how frightening this sickness can be. Not only are there different stages of breast cancer, but there are many different names for certain breast cancers as well as certain causes and treatments. Since breast cancer, in itself is so vast, there’s no question as to why there are so many myths that circle around by word of mouth and through articles that can cause someone living with it a real scare. This is why it’s important to understand what the facts and myths are of breast cancer.
The five stages of breast cancer
Classifying breast cancer in stages helps determine the best method of treatment and whether or not there is a chance to cure it. During breast cancer staging, you will find out how far the cancer has progressed. There are five different stages ranging from 0 to 4 in roman numerals – 0 being where the cancer is contained within the milk ducts and is noninvasive and 4 being metastasized breast cancer (spread to other organs).
A doctor will determine what stage the breast cancer is based on the size of the tumor. A doctor will also check to see if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, how aggressive the cancer cells appear to be when placed under a microscope, or if the cancer cells have a gene mutation to identify to which stage of breast cancer it has developed.
• Stage 0 is noninvasive breast cancer, meaning there is no evidence of cancer cells or non-cancerous abnormal cells.
• Stage 1 is invasive cancer where the cancer cells invade the surrounding breast tissue. This stage is usually classified into two subcategories, 1A and 1B.
• Stage 2 is invasive cancer where no cancer is found in the breast but instead found in the lymph nodes under the arm or the lymph nodes under the breast bone.
• Stage 3 breast cancer is invasive cancer where the cancer has spread to one or three axillary lymph nodes and is larger than 5cm.
• Stage 4 is an invasive breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) such as the lungs, liver or brain.
Two myths and one fact about breast cancer As stated previously, since this is such a complex type of disease, there are many misconceptions about breast cancer, how it works and what can happen when someone is diagnosed with it. Many times a myth gets heard before a fact, for example:
Myth: Most women who have breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer. This information is false seeing as though only 15 percent to 20 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of it.
Myth: You have to decide on a treatment option immediately after you are diagnosed. This statement is not applicable because you want to find treatment fast to stop any growths or spreading of the cancer; but finding the best treatment option for you and your body is the most important. This requires extensive research and working alongside your doctor.
Even with all the misconceptions, there are facts about breast cancer that are important to know.
Fact: The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Fifty percent of breast cancer patients are women over 60. This is a true fact that many people are probably not aware of. Though anyone can get breast cancer, this disease is primarily a disease of older women.
Why it’s important to know the truth
Knowing the truth about breast cancer can save a life. If you know how breast cancer works and most of its subcategories, then you can learn how to navigate it better. Learning what stage you or someone you know may have will help you determine which treatment options work best for that stage of cancer. This will also help you with some do’s and dont’s on what you should be consuming with your diet, how you should be exercising, what to expect during treatment and more.
Talking to your doctor, going online and finding proper and accurate research; and reaching out to support groups and organizations are all ways to find the correct answers you may be looking for. Remember, though, that there are myths out there about breast cancer so paying attention to the facts is more important.