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Learning If You Have Breast Cancer

     You woke up one morning and went off to get your yearly screening mammogram and two more mammograms later and a biopsy and you learn you have cancer.  Or you found a lump in you breast and a biopsy has shown breast cancer.  You may ask yourself how this could have happened?  Or why did it happen to you?  Or what is next in my future?  It is a frightening time.  One that is filled with questions, fears and helplessness.  Our hope is to help guide you through this time by educating you on the facts about breast cancer and dispelling the myths.

  • How do I read my pathology report?

Your pathology report will contain a lot of important information, but not all the information that you will need.  The initial report will tell you the type of cancer. The final report after you have surgery will contain more information.

    • The basic type of cancer
      • Insitu-Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.  This is a cancer confined to the ductal structure that has not invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
      • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  Cancer originating in the ducts.
      • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.  Cancer originating in the lobules.

    • The grade of the tumor (how aggressive it appears under the microscope)
      • Grade I – low grade or slowly dividing cells
      • Grade II – intermediate grade moderate cell division
      • Grade III – high grade or rapidly dividing cells

    • Tumor prognostic factors (these are expressed as either present or not present +/-)
      • ER (Estrogen receptors) determine the tumors response to estrogen stimulation.  These cancers can be treated with medicine that reduces the estrogen in your body.
      • PR (Progesterone receptors)
      • Her 2 neu:  A gene that helps control how cells grow, divide, and repair themselves.  Cancers can have too many copies of the HER2 gene or too many HER2 receptors.  These tumors tend to grow faster and spread faster.  But they do respond very well to treatment that works against HER2.

    • Staging  (I-IV).  This is a way to add the tumor size and whether lymph nodes are positive. 
      • T – for the tumor size.  This is expressed in centimeters
      • N – nodal status.  Whether or not the breast cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.
      • M – will likely be reported as Mx unless the pathologist has knowledge that the tumor was not identified elsewhere in the body then it will be reported as M0.
      • Margin status will also be listed and this will tell you how far the tumor was from the edge of the tissue surgically removed.

Visit www.breastcancer.org* and click on Your Pathology Report for more information.