Early Stage Breast Cancer
Early stage breast cancer refers to the stage in which the cancer cells have not spread beyond the breast to the surrounding tissues. Compared to advanced stages of breast cancer, its treatment is easier, and the rate of complete recovery is higher.
Early stage breast cancer is considered as the first stage of breast cancer. Breast cancers are classified into 5 stages. These stages are evaluated according to the size of the tumor and how far it has spread to the surrounding tissues and organs. According to the classification, a treatment plan is applied. The recovery rate of breast cancer, at an earlier stage, is 90%.
Stages of Early Breast Cancer
Breast cancer has a total of 5 stages that range from 0 to IV.
Stage 0: Breast cancer that is described as pre-invasive. These are abnormal cells that have not yet spread but exist within the tissue.
Stage I – Stage II: Breast cancers that are described as early stage.
Stage III: Advanced breast cancer, which is called Locally advanced breast cancer.
Stage IV: Metastatic advanced breast cancer. At this stage, cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Stage 0 cancers are called “carcinoma in situ”. Carcinoma means cancer, and “situ” means the local place where the cells grow. There are 2 types of carcinoma in situ breast cancer;
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
What is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)?
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ DCIS is the most common form of breast cancer. It begins with the uncontrolled reproduction of cells in the milk ducts. It is not invasive but can spread to surrounding tissues if not diagnosed early or treated.
What is Lobular Carcinoma in Situ?
Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS) refers to the condition of abnormal cells that form in the milk ducts. It is not cancer; however, it increases the risk of developing breast cancer in the future.
Stage I Breast Cancer is the earliest stage of invasive breast cancer. Cancer cells tend to spread to the nearby tissues but not to the lymph nodes. The tumor size can reach up to 2 cm. This phase is divided into 2 different categories.
- Stage 1A: The size of the tumor is 2 cm or less and has not spread out of the breast.
- Stage 1B: Cancer cells are located in lymph nodes in small groups and each group is no larger than 2mm. Cancer is very small or absent in the breast tissue.
Both types of Stage 1 cancer types can be treated, but cancers in the 1A group are easier to treat than 1B. Because the tumor size is very small, it is more difficult to diagnose at this stage.
Stage II breast cancer is a type of cancer in which the cancer has grown in the breast or spread only to the nearby lymph nodes. It is an invasive cancer and the tumor can range from 2cm to 5cm. The cancer may grow locally in the breast tissue or spread to the armpit lymph nodes on the side of the chest where it is located. Stage II Breast cancer is divided into two categories depending on whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes:
- Tumors may not be present in the chest, but the cancer may have spread to the armpit lymph nodes.
- The tumor size in the chest is 2cm or smaller and the cancer has spread to the armpit lymph nodes.
- The tumor size in the chest is between 2 and 5 cm, but it has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- The tumor is between 2 and 5 cm and has spread to the armpit lymph nodes
- The tumor is larger than 5 cm but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage IIA breast cancer treatment is easier than IIB, however, both categories of cancer are treatable.
Early Stage Breast Cancer Treatments
Doctors consider many factors when planning the treatment for early cancer, depending on the type and characteristics of the cancers. One of the most preferred treatment methods in breast cancer is surgery. Surgical treatment can be supplemented with radiation therapy or drug therapy. The treatment program to be applied may be affected by some genetic factors;
- If the cancer cells are estrogen receptor (ER) -positive or progesterone receptor (PR) -positive
- If the cancer is HER2-positive
- The growth and spread rate of cancer
- General health of patient
Although Stage 0 breast cancer is non-invasive, it needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed. Generally, surgery and radiation therapy are applied. Chemotherapy is not preferred.
Stage 1 breast cancer is highly treatable. In addition to surgical intervention and radiation therapy, hormone therapy can also be applied depending on the type of cancer. In the treatment of Stage II breast cancer, a systematic treatment should be applied in addition to surgery and radiation therapy. Surgery is meant to prevent the growth and spread of the tumor while also checking the Lymph nodes near the tumor. Often radiation therapy follows the surgery. In stage 2 breast cancer, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy can also be applied before and after surgery.