This refers to Stage 3 and 4 breast cancers. Stage 3 breast cancer means that cancer has invaded the adjacent structures such as the skin or the chest wall and/or the lymph nodes in the armpit at first presentation. Although this is advanced, effective treatment regimes have evolved in recent times.
What is Advance Breast Cancer?
Simply put, advanced breast cancer is the cancer that has spread to other parts of your body. Stages 3 and 4 can be categorized under ‘advanced’ cancers. Stage 3 cancer, or Locally Advanced cancer, is when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and other regions of the breast. Stage 4, or metastatic cancer, is when the breast cancer cells have branched out to other regions of the body, including bones and lungs. Even those these cells take over other regions and organs, they are still categorized as ‘breast cancer’.
If I have Stage 3 breast cancer, does it mean I will lose my breast?
This depends on how big the breast cancer is relative to the breast size. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy which refers to chemotherapy given first to treat the breast cancer to achieve shrinkage of the tumour allows for breast conservation if the tumour shows good response to the chemotherapy.
In some situations the breast tumour may be small however many lymph nodes in the axilla may be involved which again will benefit from chemotherapy first to allow for shrinkage of the lymph glands before definitive surgery is pursued.
If my cancer responds very well to the chemotherapy, can I then avoid surgery?
The success of cancer treatment is based on the multidisciplinary approach to cancer. Surgery remains the mainstay of the treatment, Avoidance will amount to incomplete treatment and cancer will re-surface in no time
If I am diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, does it mean that all the treatment will be futile?
Treatment of advanced breast cancer has evolved so much in the last decade to improve both survival and quality of life. The treatment regime again differs depending on the tumour biology and the extent of spread in the body. Stable stage 4 breast cancer patients can even continue a relatively normal lifestyle.
Treatment for Advance Breast Cancer?
Treatment for advanced breast cancer is one that may be extended for long periods, simply because of the nature and size of the cancer being dealt with. In order to keep cancer under control and improve the quality of your life, these procedures are usually needed for your lifetime. Other than surgical methods to remove the cells, other treatments can also be used as the medication used can travel through your blood to target cancer in other regions/organs of the body. These treatments can include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy as well as immunotherapy.