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How fast does breast cancer spread?

Breast cancer can be found in just one breast or spread to other parts of the body. It’s known as metastatic breast cancer (MBC) or stage 4 breast carcinoma when it spreads

The speed at which your cancer spreads is dependent on many factors. Some of these factors can be found in your doctor’s diagnosis.

How quickly does metastatic breast carcinoma spread?
Breast cancer cells are like all cells. They grow through cellular division. It is difficult to predict the growth rate of cancer cells because they are mutated.

According to the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center of Providence Portland Medical Center: Breast cancer cells must divide at least 30 times before being detected by physical examination.

Each division takes approximately 1 to 2 months. This means that a detectable cancer has probably been growing for at least 2 to 5 years.

The tumor will grow larger if more cells are divided. The chances of a tumor growing larger than normal are higher that it will invade surrounding tissues, lymphatic system or circulatory system and spread to other parts.

The staging and grading of breast cancer can give you some clues about how advanced your disease is.

For example, grade 3 breast cancer will likely spread more quickly than grade 1 and 2.

Stage 4 breast cancer, which has already spread beyond the breast tissue, is by definition the fastest-growing stage.

Other factorsTrusted source which can influence how fast your breast cancer spreads include:

The ageTrustedSource at the time you are diagnosed
Regardless of whether you are premenopausal, or postmenopausal (hormones can fuel growth of cancer cellsTrusted source
If there is a family history of breast cancer
The extent to which alcoholTrustedSource, cigarettes or pollution have affected you.
How doctors evaluate breast cancer
StagingTrusted Source and Grading are the primary metrics used for assessing breast cancer.

Grades
It is important to know how quickly breast cancer will spread.

Your doctor will perform a biopsy on your breast to determine the grade of your breast cancer. The grade of the biopsied cells is determined by how similar or distinct they are to normal cells.

The grade of breast cancer cells is based on a scale from 1 to 3.

Grade 1 or well differentiated. The cancer cells are slower growing and look similar to normal breast tissue.
Grade 2 or moderately differentiated. Normal cells are slightly different and will likely grow at a moderate rate.
Grade 3 or poorly differentiated. Cancer cells are very different from normal cells. This means they will likely grow and spread more quickly.
Stages
Staging determines whether breast cancer has spread and, if so how far. Staging provides information that can help your healthcare team predict the future.

How fast your cancer could spread
It is so survivable
What treatment options are available?
Doctors will assess the tumor’s size and location, as well as whether it is positive for estrogen receptors or progesterone receptors.

Each one of these proteins can make tumors grow faster and spread faster.

What the stages of breast cancer look like and what they mean
The stages of breast cancer are often expressed on a scale from 0 to 4.

Stage 0 is non-invasive (in situ), and there is no evidence of cancer spreading beyond the area where it started to grow.

The stages 1 through 3 are generally for breast cancer that has spread to other areas of the breast. These stages increase in size and spread.

The most effective treatment for breast cancer is one that is localized.

Breast cancer tumors can spread directly from the breast tissue to nearby areas, such as the chest wall and skin of the breast. This is stage 3 breast cancer.

Stage 4 refers to metastatic breast cancer (MBC), which means that cancer that began in the breast has spread to other parts.

Lymph nodes – How breast cancer spreads
Stage 4 breast cancer can spread beyond the breasts through invading lymph nodes close to the breasts and then traveling via the lymphatic system to other parts.

The bloodstream can also allow cancer cells to move around and inhabit other parts of the body.

The brain, liver, bones and lungs are the most common destinations of MBC (advanced breast cancer) cells.

Stage 4 breast cancer has metastasized or spread to distant parts of the body. The survival rate is 28 per centTrusted Source 5-year.

Patients with stage 4 breast carcinoma may live longer if they receive prompt treatment.

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