Invasive (infiltrating) means that cancer has spread into surrounding tissues and/or distant organs. This is the more common type of breast cancer.
Non-invasive (in situ) means that the cancerous cells are confined to their point of origin within the breast lobules or milk ducts. They don't invade or grow into normal tissues beyond or within the breast.
Women younger than 40 with risk factors for breast cancer should ask their primary care physician whether to start mammograms and how often to have them
Women between the ages of 40 to 44 have the choice to start yearly mammography
Women aged 45 to 54 are recommended to receive a mammogram every year
Women age 55 and older can switch to having a mammogram every two years or continue yearly screening if they choose
Some breast tumors grow more quickly due to hormones. These tumors have receptors for the hormones estrogen, progesterone, or both. If the hormone receptor tests show that the breast tumor has these receptors, then hormone therapy is most often recommended as a treatment option.
HER2 is a protein found in or on some breast cancer cells that fuels growth and can make breast cancer spread quicker. If the test shows you are HER2 positive, a special drug targeting the HER2 protein is recommended.
Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cells have either estrogen (ER) or progesterone (PR) receptors. These breast cancers can be treated with hormone therapy drugs that lower estrogen levels or block estrogen receptors. HR-positive cancers tend to grow more slowly than those that are HR-negative. HR-positive cancers are generally more common in women after menopause.
Hormone receptor-negative breast cancers do not have estrogen or progesterone receptors. These types of cancers will not benefit from hormone therapy drugs and typically grow faster than HR-positive cancers. HR-negative cancers are more common in women who have not yet gone through menopause.
The breast cancer cells may or may not have receptors for the hormone estrogen. ER+ results suggest that the cancer cells may receive signals from estrogen that could promote their growth.
The breast cancer cells may or may not have receptors for the hormone progesterone. PR+ results mean that the cancer cells may receive signals from progesterone that could promote their growth.
The stage of your breast cancer is based on several factors, such as:
One of the first places breast cancer can spread and start to grow is in the nearby lymph nodes.
Multiplying breast cancer cells can enter the lymphatic vessels that are located in breast tissue. These cells are then carried throughout the body by lymph fluid. The closest lymph nodes, usually in the underarm area, are often the first place that breast cancer will start to grow outside of the breast.
When the surgeon removes the tumor, they will also evaluate the lymph nodes and run a test to find the closest lymph nodes so they can be removed and tested for cancer cells. This is called a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
TX: The primary tumor cannot be evaluated.
T0 (T zero): There is no evidence of cancer in the breast.
Tis: Refers to carcinoma in situ. The cancer is confined within the ducts of the breast tissue and has not spread into the surrounding tissue of the breast. There are 2 types of breast carcinoma in situ:
T1: The tumor in the breast is 20 millimeters (mm) or smaller in size at its widest area. This is a little less than an inch. This stage is then broken into 4 substages depending on the size of the tumor:
T2: The tumor is larger than 20 mm but not larger than 50 mm.
T3: The tumor is larger than 50 mm.
T4: The tumor falls into 1 of the following groups:
NX: The lymph nodes cannot be assessed.
N0: No sign of cancer in the lymph nodes, or tiny clusters of cancer cells not larger than 0.2 millimeters in the lymph nodes
N1: Cancer is described as one of the following:
N2: Cancer is described as one of the following:
N3: Cancer is described as one of the following:
If the breast cancer is hormone-receptor positive, then hormone therapy may be used to reduce the amount of hormones in the body that can fuel the cancer’s growth. Hormone therapy slows the production of hormones, or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing.
The type of hormone therapy given depends on whether or not the patient has gone through menopause. Hormone therapy is usually given along with other therapies (adjuvant) and may be recommended for several years after your other breast cancer treatments are complete.
Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells. They are usually given through a vein (intravenous) or as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous) for breast cancer. If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, you will probably receive a combination of drugs based on the type, stage, and grade of breast cancer you have.
This can be given before surgery, after surgery, or both depending on the type of breast cancer and its stage.
Another breast cancer treatment approach is targeted therapy. It involves taking medicines that “target” specific proteins and genes that are already known to promote breast cancer growth in the body. For example, targeted therapy may block the action of the HER2 protein that stimulates the growth of breast cancer cells.
Immunotherapy uses the body's natural defenses to fight cancer by improving your immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells. When breast cancer cells disguise themselves as healthy cells, their checkpoints don’t work correctly to attack the cancer. Immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors make it so the body can recognize the cancer cells, thus allowing the immune system to do its job and attack the unhealthy cells. Immunotherapy has been found to be helpful for patients with triple-negative breast cancer when combined with chemotherapy.
The breast cancer specialists at Consultants in Medical Oncology and Hematology work with you to ensure you have the most effective breast cancer treatment plan. Contact us today at one of our convenient locations in Broomall and Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. We also offer second opinions on diagnosis and treatment plans for breast cancer.