Stage 1 Breast Cancer Treatment
If your cancer has been diagnosed early at stage 1, this means treatment can be more effective and the chances of survival are greater. Around 98% of women diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer survive for more than five years after diagnosis. Treatment for early breast cancer will likely be combination therapy, likely to involve radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or surgery. As stage 1 cancer is the earliest stage, the tumour will be small and may not have metastasised to other areas of the body. Your oncologist will decide on the best course of treatment following scans which will pinpoint the precise location of the tumour. This will help the team to decide whether invasive or non-invasive breast cancer treatment options are recommended.
Stage 2 Breast Cancer Treatment
Stage 2 breast cancer is also classed as an early stage of breast cancer and means that the cancer is present in the breast and/or the nearby lymph nodes. Depending on the size of the tumour and to which lymph nodes it has spread, will determine the treatment needed but is likely to be more invasive than stage 1 treatment. Patients with stage 2 breast cancer are likely to undergo surgery to remove part or all of the breast, and if cancer is detected in the lymph nodes, a course of radiotherapy or proton beam therapy will be recommended. Despite the aesthetic changes that stage 2 breast cancer treatment may bring, survival rates remain high, with 90% of patients going on to live for five or more years after a diagnosis.
Stage 3 Breast Cancer Treatment
Stage 3 breast cancer, also referred to as locally advanced cancer, is a later stage cancer that is still treatable and curable. Survival rates drop down to 72% of patients living for five or more years after diagnosis. When breast cancer is diagnosed as stage 3, this means that cancer has spread to between four and nine lymph nodes and is likely to be at least 5cm in size (although this is not always the case).
As the cancer has spread, chemotherapy is a likely choice of treatment to destroy cancer cells before they metastasise further. Your oncology team will discuss the side effects of chemotherapy and how you may feel after each cycle of treatment, find out more about chemotherapy cycles on our chemotherapy treatment page. This drug-based therapy reduces the size of the tumour so that it is easier to remove during surgery, which will involve either a full or partial mastectomy. In some instances, patients may undergo surgery before having chemotherapy.
Stage 4 Breast Cancer Treatment
Stage 4 breast cancer, or metastatic cancer, is the most advanced stage and, as such, survival rates are low, with just 25% of patients living for longer than five years after diagnosis. This means that cancer has spread into other areas of the body, possibly the lungs, bones, or brain, which makes curing the cancer highly improbable. At this stage, treatment may be given to manage symptoms as opposed to eliminating the cancer itself.
Breast cancer treatment options at this stage can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, proton beam therapy, and surgery in an attempt to remove as much of the cancer as possible. In the case of metastatic cancer, shrinking or simply slowing the growth of the tumour is the best course of action, at which point the oncology team will consider your options fully. In some cases, treatment can keep stage 4 cancer under control for many years.
Source: Cancer Research UK