Stage 1 or 2 – Early breast cancer

Early breast cancer (stages 1 and 2) is invasive breast cancer that is contained in the breast, and may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes in the breast or armpit but not to other organs beyond the breast. Some cells may have spread outside the breast and armpit area but cannot be detected. If the cancer is in the ducts of the breast, it’s called invasive ductal carcinoma. If cancer is in the lobules of the breast, it’s called invasive lobular carcinoma. If early breast cancer involves the nipple area, it’s called Paget’s disease of the nipple. The earliest breast cancer can be diagnosed a treated, the better the outlook and chance of survival.

Types of Stage 1 & 2 breast cancer

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)

The primary cancer has broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of the breast. Although some cells may have spread outside the breast and armpit area they may yet be undetectable. However, over time, invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body. This is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for approximately 80% of all breast cancers.

Invasive lobule carcinoma (ILC)

The cancer has broken through the wall of the lobule which produces milk and begun to invade the tissues of the breast. Over time, invasive lobular carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body. This is the second most common type of breast cancer after invasive ductal carcinoma.

Treatment for early breast cancer

Treatments for stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancer are intensive and can include a combination of surgery to remove the main tumour – either a lumpectomy or mastectomy, and lymph node dissection (removing lymph nodes from the armpit). Chemotherapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumour prior to surgery, and radiotherapy used to eradicate all remaining traces after surgery. Depending on the pathologist’s report on the molecular type of tumour and its hormone receptor status, treatment may also include hormone therapy for five years or longer.

How research is helping

Personalised treatment is a medical model that tailors medical decisions, practices, interventions and/or products to the individual patient, based on their predicted response or risk of disease. Advances in technology and research underpin the rise of personalised treatment as the genetic basis for diseases are investigated and treatment found to target the abnormalities that result in disease such as cancer. This means doctors can determine what combination of treatments to give to a certain patient based on what their genes say they will respond best to.

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