Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S., accounting
for 32 percent of all female cancers. Breast cancer is responsible
for 18 percent of cancer deaths in women and is second only to lung
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United
States. In 2001, an estimated 192,200 women were diagnosed with
breast cancer, and 40,600 women died from the disease.
Despite the fact that 40,000 people are expected to die of the
disease in 2002, the mortality rates actually declined during 1992-1997
with the largest decreases in younger women--both white and black.
This decline is due to earlier detection through screening mammography
and improvements in chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Survival rates for patients with non-metastatic breast cancer (all
stages) have improved in recent years. The 5-year relative survival
rate for localized breast cancer has increased from 72 percent in
the 1940s to 96 percent today. However, if the cancer has spread
regionally, the rate is 77 percent and for patients with distant
metastasis, the rate is 21 percent. Long term survival after a breast
cancer diagnosis continues to decline after five years with 71 percent
surviving 10 years and 57 percent surviving 15 years.
In addition to age, other factors may increase a woman's risk of
breast cancer. The strongest risk factors are a family history of
breast cancer in a mother or sister, having already been diagnosed
with breast cancer, or having had a previous breast biopsy showing
atypical hyperplasia (an irregular pattern of cell growth).
Stages of Breast
Stages of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society,
indicate the size of a tumor and how far the cancer has spread within
the breast, to nearby tissues, and to other organs. Specific treatment
is most often determined by the following stages of the disease:
Carcinoma in situ: Cancer is
confined to the lobules (milk-producing glands) or ducts (passages
connecting milk-producing glands to the nipple) and has not invaded
nearby breast tissue.
Stage I: Tumor is smaller than
or equal to 2 centimeters in diameter and underarm (axillary) lymph
nodes test negative for cancer.
Stage II: Tumor is between
2 and 5 centimeters in diameter with or without positive lymph nodes,
or tumor is greater than 5 centimeters without positive lymph nodes.
Stage III: This stage is divided
into substages known as IIIA and IIIB:
IIIA: Tumor is larger than 5 centimeters with positive movable
lymph nodes, or tumor is any size with lymph nodes that adhere to
one another or surrounding tissue.
IIIB: Tumor of any size has spread to the skin, chest wall,
or internal mammary lymph nodes (located beneath the breast and
inside the chest).
Stage IV: Tumor, regardless
of size, has metastasized (spread) to distant sites such as bones,
lungs, or lymph nodes not near the breast.
If your Doctor has been guilty of misdiagnosis or negligent treatment
of your breast cancer symptoms and you have suffered because of
it please contact us for a free legal consultation about your legal
rights and a confidential case evaluation.