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Advanced Breast Cancer Stages

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Stage of cancer determines treatment and prognosis.  

With any type of cancer there are stages defined which determine treatment protocols as well as which indicate to medical professionals involved, an idea of how far the cancer has or has not advanced.  With breast cancer this rating process defines stages III and IV as advanced breast cancer stages.  There are many factors that determine the stage the cancer is in but there are some general rules that can be applied when it is rated.  Based on the stage of the cancer the breast cancer treatment is then assessed by the doctor and a plan of approach is then discussed with the patient.  Within these parameters patients have input into their treatment.

Advanced Breast Cancer Stages Explained

Breast cancer has a number of stages.  Stages 0, I, IIA and IIB all center around limited tumor sizes as well as little to no lymph node cancer spread.  In Stage IIB the lymph node spread is 1 to 3 but in all other earlier stages there is no lymph node activity.  When you begin to get into stage III and IV the lymph nodes and other organs have been impacted by the spread of the disease.  Stage IIIA has many  components to it but usually has a size of less than 5 cm with 4 to 9 lymph nodes infected or is a size greater than 5 cm and 1 to 9 lymph nodes infected, but no visible spread to distant organs.  Stage III B and C are similar but with more lymph node impact for both.

Stage IV breast cancer is often interchangeably called advanced breast cancer.  In Stage IV it does not matter how big the tumor is or what the lymph node activity is, what is different is that the cancer has spread to distant organs such as lungs, brain, skin and liver.  This cancer is also known as metatastic cancer because it has spread beyond the breasts.  Many times, when a diagnosis of breast cancer first occurs, there are a battery of tests that the doctors will request in order to fully and properly assign a stage to the cancer.  These tests include MRI, PET, blood test, chest x-ray, and a mammogram on both breasts. Also used are ultra sounds and bone scans.  The results of these tests will allow proper staging and determine treatment options for the patient.

Advanced breast cancer stages or metatastic breast cancer has no cure and a five year survival rate of 57 % for Stage III and 20% for Stage IV.  Breast cancer treatment is available for these stages which usually includes chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy.  Chemotherapy is the most common treatment recommended.  Since the cancer has spread, surgery is no longer a realistic option as the cancer is no longer contained.  Chemotherapy searches out cancer cells and kills them and is the best treatment for the advanced stages of breast cancer.

Additional treatments for breast cancer in the advanced stages includes radiation and hormone therapy.  Radiation is used when there is a specific area that can be targeted with high energy x-rays to kill the cancer cells.  Hormone treatment can also be used to block the formation of estrogen which is known to help spread cancer.  Although the advanced stages of breast cancer are extremely serious, treating them aggressively and quickly is the best course of action.  It is important to consult with your doctor for the best solutions as well as be an educated patient by researching your own options as well.