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Breast Cancer: Every Woman's Nightmare 
 
by Valencia P. Higuera August 25, 2005

Stages of Breast Cancer

Stage I: Early stage of breast cancer in which the tumor is less than 1 inch. The cancer is found in only one breast and has not spread to surrounding tissues and organs

Stage II: Early stage of breast cancer in which the tumor is less than 1 inch, but has spread to nearby lymph node located under the armpit, or the tumor is 1 to 2 inches and has not spread to lymph nodes.

Stage III: Advanced stage of breast cancer in which the tumor is larger than 2 inches and has spread to the lymph nodes. In stage 3, the cancer may have spread to surrounding tissues located near the breast

Stage IV: Advanced stage of breast cancer in which cancerous cells spread to other organs such as the bones, lungs, liver, and brain.

Risk Factors

Breast cancer may occur in any woman regardless of age or nationality. Mistakenly, many women believe that breast cancer is caused by a gene. They reason that if no other woman in their family has breast cancer, they are immune to the illness. However, several women without a family history of breast cancer, or any other form of cancer, develop the illness. Similar to other illnesses, cancer is random and can affect anyone at anytime during their life. Nonetheless, there are factors that may increase a woman's chance of developing breast cancer. These include:

  • Person history of breast cancer (women treated for breast cancer may have a recurrence of the illness, or cancer may spread to the other breast)
  • Family history of breast cancer, or any other type of cancer
  • Altered gene (some women contain a hereditary defected gene that increases the odds of developing breast cancer)

Other factors that place a woman at risk of developing breast cancer is being over the age of 50. Breast cancer rarely occurs in women under the age of 35 – but it is possible. On average, women who are diagnosed at an early age have a strong family history of breast cancer. This consists of having several close family members diagnosed with breast cancer, perhaps a mother or sibling. Researchers have concluded that long-term exposure to estrogen may cause a variety of cancers. Thus, women who begin early menstruation are also at great risk. Having children later in life is another risk factor. Late childbearing consists of having one's first child pass the age of 30. Lastly, women who abuse alcohol have a higher risk of breast cancer.

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