Staging(STAY-JING) — The process of clearly defining a cancer using several measurable characteristics is the process of clearly defining a cancer using many measurable characteristics to describe how advanced a cancer is. The stages of breast cancer are numbered from least severe, 0, to most advanced, 4
Let’s head out to the garden to help you understand the different stages of breast cancer.
Stage 0 – Very Early
Stage 0 is when there is a noninvasive(NON-IN-VAY-ZIV) — Something that does not penetrate or enter, premalignant(PRE-MA-LIG-NENT) — A growth that will worsen and grow into a cancer, becoming malignant if not removed growth. This includes the conditions like Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)(DUCK-TOOL CAR-SIN-O-MA IN SIGH-TOO) — A type of premalignant breast cancer, as well as Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS)(LOB-U-LER CAR-SIN-O-MA IN SIGH-TOO) — A type of premalignant breast cancer. DCIS or LCIS indicate that there are abnormal(AB-NOR-MOL) — Something that is not supposed to happen cells in the breast. However, because the growth is noninvasive, there is very low risk for the tumor(TOO-MER) — Abnormal growth in the body to spread. But, if these conditions are left untreated, they can become more invasive(IN-VAY-ZIV) — Something that penetrates or enters, resulting in a more advanced stage and cancer.
Another way to understand stage 0 cancer is to compare it to a tulip bulb. If you plant a tulip bulb and remove it early enough, it will not grow. But if the bulb is left in the soil too long, it will eventually grow roots and bloom into a plant. The treatment(TREET-MINT) — Techniques to help eliminate or control a disease for stage 0 cancer is aimed at removing this initial growth and preventing disease recurrence(REE-CER-ENCE) — When a cancer returns or comes back.
Stage 1 – Early
Although stage 1 is a malignant(MA-LIG-NENT) — A cancer or abnormal tumor that grows uncontrollably and may spread to other parts of the body growth, it is considered an early stage. The cancer is still small, but it has become invasive. Additionally, there is no evidence of spread. This is like a small dandelion with roots that have not grown too deep. Since the dandelion has a root system, it is considered invasive.
Sometimes even a small dandelion can have seeds. Thus, it has the ability to spread, but the chance that the seeds will spread is low. The treatment for stage 1 disease is usually pretty gentle. It is focused on treating the cancer and preventing the disease from recurring and spreading.
Stage 2 & Stage 3
Stages 2 and 3 can have overlapping characteristics, so we grouped them together to keep this as simple as possible. Stages 2 and 3 include many possible combinations of tumor size and lymph node involvement(LIMFF NODE IN-VOLV-MINT) — Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. In these stages, some of the cancers are large without local spread(LOW-COAL SPRED) — Disease that has only spread to areas near the original cancer, while others invade deep into surrounding tissue(TISH-YOU) — The accumulation of cells that make up parts of the body, like organs (locally advanced disease(LOW-COAL-LEE ADD-VANST DUH-ZEEZ) — Disease that has spread beyond the original cancer and cannot be removed with a single procedure). When lymph nodes(LIMFF NODES) — Glands that filter bodily fluid and react to infections are involved, it can mean either stage 2 or stage 3 disease, depending on the size and local spread of the tumor.
Stage 2 and stage 3 diseases are comparable to having dandelions with extensive(EX-STEN-ZIV) — Widespread (invasive) root systems. The dandelions can be large or have deep, entangled roots. Additionally, the seeds from the original dandelion can drop and grow in the soil of the same flowerbed or blow away to ones nearby (lymph nodes).
A patient with stage 2 or 3 breast cancer is at high risk(HI RESK) — More likely to develop breast cancer for the cancer to return. This is because cancer cells may have spread to other parts of the body undetected. The treatment for a woman in these stages is aimed at removing the cancer and trying to kill any cells that may have spread.
Stage 4 – Advanced
If a patient is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, it means that the cancer is very advanced. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized(ME-TAH-STAH-SIZED) — To spread to other sites of the body). This is comparable to the original dandelion seed’s being picked up by the wind and fertilized in areas far away. Metastatic disease(MET-AH-STAT-IK DUH-ZEEZ) — Disease that has spread throughout the body through the bloodstream is occasionally discovered at the time of diagnosis. However, metastatic breast cancer(MET-AH-STAT-IK BRE-ST CAN-SIR) — Breast cancer that has spread throughout the body through the bloodstream usually develops (the cancer recurs) many years after diagnosis and the original treatment. The treatments available for stage 4 breast cancer are aimed at trying to kill or shrink the cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer is scary, but the treatments available for it today are very good. They are able to control the cancer for very long periods of time (for most patients), while still allowing patients to maintain a very good quality of life.