Breast cancer is most commonly associated with postmenopausal women but is increasingly affecting women of child-bearing age. The classic presentation is with a painless, slow growing and palpable mass. Other symptoms include nipple discharge and breast skin changes.
Risk factors include:
• Increased age
• Family history
• Early menarche
• Late menopause
Breast cancer once diagnosed is attributed a 'stage' in order to guide treatment decisions.
• Stage 0 - non-invasive breast cancer with no invasion of surrounding tissue
• Stage I - invasive breast cancer in which the tumour measures <2 cm and there is no lymph node involvement
• Stage II - the tumour measures at least 2 cm but <5 cm or cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the axilla on the same side as the affected breast
• Stage IIIA - tumour size is >5 cm or there is significant lymph node involvement, where the nodes stick to one another or surrounding tissue
• Stage IIIB - tumour has spread to the breast skin, chest wall or internal mammary lymph nodes; includes inflammatory breast cancer
• Stage IV - tumour has spread beyond the breast, axilla and internal mammary nodes and may have spread to lymph nodes at neck base, lungs, liver, brain or bone
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