The Basic Types of Breast Cancer
Breast cancers are classified as either invasive of non-invasive (in situ), and there are two types of the disease that fall under each category. The two forms of breast cancer that carry the invasive moniker are infiltrating ductal carcinoma and infiltrating lobular carcinoma; while in the non-invasive classification we have ductal carcinoma in situ and lobular carcinoma in situ.
The breast ducts connect to the lobules, where breast milk is actually produced, and all breast cancers begin in one of these two locations. The key difference in cancers of the breast is not related to location, however; rather, it is based on whether or not the breast cancer tumor can penetrate the walls of the area it occupies and move into the surrounding fatty breast tissue, the lymph node system, and other parts of the body. When breast cancer tumors grow so aggressively they actually break out well past their point of origin and spread to new areas, this is called metastasis.
The Five Stages of Breast Cancer
Five different stages of breast cancer may manifest as the disease develops – or ceases developing, in the case of in situ cancers. These stages are:
- Stage 0 – noninvasive carcinomas occupy their locations of origin without spreading beyond this point
- Stage I – the tumor is no larger than two centimeters, and cancer cells are confined to the breast
- Stage II – a tumor has started to spread to the lymph nodes or, the tumor has exceeded five centimeters in size
- Stage III – the tumor has exceeded five centimeters and has spread into the lymph nodes in a more extensive way than in stage II
- Stage IV – the cancer has metastasized and spread to other regions of the body
It is important that breast cancer sufferers be diagnosed as early as possible, if they have an invasive type of the disease. Smaller tumors and confinement to smaller areas makes breast cancer much easier to treat using the traditional methods of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy.
Pathophysiology and Treatment
Understanding breast cancer means understanding the way normal breast cell formation and function becomes disrupted and misdirected, until good cells go bad and cancer is the result. Pathophysiological analysis will ultimately allow researchers to develop sensible, targeted treatments that can turn the tables on cancer cells, disrupting and misdirecting their processes of development so they are no longer able to do damage in the body. Without the deeper level of understanding provided by pathophysiological study, survival rates for breast cancer would not be nearly as good as they are now.