What is early breast cancer?
Early breast cancer (stage I or II) is the most common invasive breast cancer in the U.S.
Stage I breast cancers are smaller than two centimeters and have not spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit (axillary nodes).
Stage II breast cancers are either larger than two centimeters or have spread to the axillary nodes.
Learn more about the stages of breast cancer.
Prognosis for early breast cancer
With treatment, people with early breast cancer usually have a good prognosis. However, survival depends on each person’s diagnosis and treatment.
One large study found that about 90 percent of women diagnosed with stage I or stage II breast cancer between 1990 and 2004 lived at least five years beyond their diagnosis . With improvements in treatment since that time, survival for women diagnosed today may be higher.
Treatment for early breast cancer
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts. The National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) also has overviews of treatment options.
You should ask your health care providers what guidelines they use as the basis of their care. Since there is often a time lag between the latest research and updates of treatment guidelines, most medical oncologists prefer to base their treatment on the latest research that ultimately drives these guidelines.
Playing an active role
You can play an active role in making treatment decisions by understanding your breast cancer diagnosis, your treatment options and their possible side effects. Together, you and your health care provider can choose treatments that fit your values and lifestyle.
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a set of recommendations (below) on improving cancer care in the U.S. The report Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis recommends improvements to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. Susan G. Komen® was one of 13 organizations sponsoring this study.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
- Ensure that cancer patients are engaged and understand their diagnoses so they can make informed treatment decisions with their health care providers
- Develop a trained and coordinated workforce of cancer professionals
- Focus on evidence-based care, using information technology to provide better information about the potential benefits of treatments
- Focus on quality measurements
- Provide accessible and affordable care for all
Read the full report.