Breast cancer can strike at any time. There are several stages of breast cancer but how do you determine, once you have been diagnosed, what stage your cancer is in? There are several ways doctors test to assess what stage your cancer is in.
Some forms of treatment can include a sentinel lymph node biopsy where they remove the sentinel lymph node and inject a dye that helps pathologists look for cancer cells. Your oncologist may also do a chest x-ray to look inside your body to determine the best option for you. Most common is a CT scan that takes detailed photos of your body from different angles. Often a dye is injected or swallowed to help organs or tissue show up better on the scan. A PET scan is a procedure that looks for malignant tumor cells and consists of a minimal amount of radioactive glucose injected into the body and allow your radiologist to see any malignant tumor cells as they are more active, take up more glucose and show up as bright spots on the scan.
Cancer can spread quickly and dangerously in your body. It either spreads through tissue, the lymph system or through the blood, which make taking preventative measures, such as yearly exams and mammograms important. Assessing which stage of cancer a person is in can help prevent the spreading of the cancer in the body. By spreading through tissue the cancer can spread from an area like the breast to surrounding areas. Breast cancer can also travel through the lymph system by getting into the lymph vessels and moving to other areas of the body.
Cancer that spreads by getting into your bloodstream and traveling along your blood vessels to other parts of the body is one of the fastest ways for it to travel. The process of a cancer spreading to another part of the body is known as metastasis. These metastasized tumors are the same type of tumor as the primary. What this means is that if it diagnosed as breast cancer but metastasizes and spreads to the bone, it is not known as bone cancer, but still would be considered breast cancer.
The stages of breast cancer vary, from Stage 0 to Stage IV. In many of the stages there are several categories of importance which help doctors properly diagnose and regulate treatment options. The most severe stage is Stage IV, and is the most fatal of the stages. In this stage the breast cancer has spread to the other organs of the body like the lungs, liver or bones.
It is important to look out for yourself and make sure you do all you can to prevent cancer. While prevention may not always be possible, catching the breast cancer in its earliest stages ensure that treatments are more effective and give you a better survival rate. There are over 2 million breast cancer survivors in the United States currently, and each one is thankful for early detection and for modern treatments. Call University Cancer Centers today to schedule your annual mammogram or to speak to a representative about preventative care.