Just as there are different cancers that can affect your body, you will find that there are different breast cancer stages and types. As the disease progresses in size and strength, it may progress to a higher stage, and become more difficult to treat. Treatment will also depend on the breast cancer which you are dealing with.
Breast cancer is usually found in the milk ducts or surrounding glands. It isn't always possible to decipher the type by feel alone, but a biopsy will show healthcare professionals what they are dealing with based on shape and the way that it is spreading.
If it is in the precancerous stage where cells are not yet spreading, it is referred to as in-situ. Ductal carcinoma in-situ is when precancerous cells begin to develop in the ducts of the breast. They are not yet moving or growing to a point where they enter surrounding cells and tissue.
Also found in the ductal system, infiltrating ductal carcinoma moves into surrounding tissue, traveling through the blood to reach various organs and systems. Just as the name suggests, it infiltrates its surroundings, and is no longer a precancerous stage, but a true cancer.
Medullary And Tubular Carcinoma
Not only are the cells and how they travel different, but when considering the breast cancer stages and types, you will also see that there are different shapes of cancer cells. Medullary carcinoma, for example, looks like the tissue found in the brain, hence the term "medulla." This is found in women over the age of forty most frequently, but it can also effect women of other age groups. Tubular carcinoma also presents a different shape, appearing as a tube cell during biopsy.
Other Rare Breast Cancers
There are also rare breast cancer stages and types, which consist of versions which appear externally like Paget's disease, or within the tissue of the lymphatic system as mucinous carcinoma does. Cancers of the breast can present themselves as other illnesses or disorders, hiding in plain site as inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) does. IBC appears like a general infection called mastitis which causes swelling of the milk ducts.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of these diseases can help you to better understand what to watch for, but generally any pain, unusual growths, discoloration, or discharge should be reported to your physician. Receiving scheduled mammograms also helps to reduce the chances of missing cancerous cells that have begun to grow in your breast tissue.
Breast Cancer Stages
As with other forms of cancer, breast cancer comes in 4 distinct stages. Stage 0-1 counts as the precancerous and beginning of the cancerous stage. This is when the cells are forming or have formed, but are not moving to any other area yet. It is the most easily treated stage of this cancer. Stage 2 has a sub stage, in which the cancer is beginning to grow and spread but hasn't left the ducts as of yet. In stage 3 there are 3 sub stages, throughout which the cancerous cells begin to become more aggressive and move into nearby tissues. Stage 4, the final stage, is present when cancer is no longer contained in the breast. It may move into the. lymphatic system before attacking other organs. Obviously, this is the most difficult stage to treat.