Breast cancers are divided into different groups, called stages, based on the size of the tumor, whether it is invasive or noninvasive, and whether it has spread through the lymph nodes to other parts of the body. Stage 0 cancer indicates a small, noninvasive tumor, while Stage IV is the highest stage, indicating cancer has spread. To determine whether the cancer is invasive and has spread outside the breast, a surgeon removes one or more lymph nodes and examines them for cancer cells.
The course of treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, the woman's age and her general state of health. Treatment options include:
- Lumpectomy, or surgical removal of the tumor
- Partial mastectomy, which is removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue
- Total mastectomy, or removal of the entire breast, leaving the underarm lymph nodes
- Modified radical mastectomy, which includes removal of the entire breast, some of the underarm lymph nodes and one of the smaller chest muscles
- Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery.
- Radiation uses beams of energy to kill cancerous cells.
- Hormonal therapy may be used for certain types of breast cancer that are sensitive to estrogen and progesterone. Tests can determine if the cells will respond to hormones.
- Targeted drugs, which include Avastin and Herceptin
After enduring a scary diagnosis and a strenuous treatment, it can be frustrating to learn that you still have to be on guard for a recurrence of the cancer. Still, the odds are with you -- 70 percent of women live more than five years after receiving their initial diagnosis, while half survive more than 10 years [source: WebMD].