Breast cancer can display itself in a number of a different ways. The symptom which most people associate with breast cancer, is a lump. Not all lumps are cancerous, in fact, most are benign but it is always advisable to go and get checked out.

Other symptoms of breast cancer may include;

– Thickening in an area of the breast
– Change in the shape, size or feel of a breast
– Dimpling of the skin
– Changes to the nipple including inversion or change of shape
– A blood stained discharge from the nipple
– A rash on or around the nipple
– Swelling or lumps in your armpits- near your lymph nodes

If you are concerned about any of these things, you should go to your GP. Your GP will then decide if you need a referral to a specialist breast clinic. If you are referred to a specialist breast clinic, you will be examined. You may have tests such as a mammogram, an ultrasound scan or a biopsy.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your treatment will vary depending on the type of cancer you have (believe it or not there are several different types of breast cancer), the stage (size/location) of your tumour and the grade of your cancer.

Breast cancer staging

The staging of breast cancer is split into 3 sections- T, N & M. You may see your cancer diagnosis set out in the following format- T2N0M0 or T4(a)N2M1.

T Staging for breast cancer reflects the size of the tumour. It is as follows:

T1-       This means that your tumour is less than 2cm across. You may see subcategories of this such as T1(a) and this reflects the size more accurately.

T2-       This indicates that your tumour is between 2cm and 5cm in size.

T3-       Suggests that your tumour is more than 5cm in size

T4-       This means that the tumour has spread beyond the breast:
– The tumour has spread to the chest wall

– The tumour has spread tot he skin

– The tumour has spread to the chest wall and the skin

– Refers to inflammatory carcinoma
N staging sets out whether the cancer has spread into your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, this acts as a drain and helps our immune system. If your cancer has not spread to your lymph nodes you will see N0.

The final part of the staging process is M staging- whether your cancer has metastasised (or spread) to another part of your body. If you see M0, this indicates that the cancer has not spread to another part of your body.

*Source of data Cancer Research

Treatment for breast cancer can include; surgery, hormone therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these. Treatments can be given in a number of orders and sometimes people are given chemotherapy before surgery to help shrink the tumour. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. If therapy is given after surgery it is called adjuvant therapy.

No matter what type and stage of cancer you have, we know that it will be an upsetting time for you and your family. This can be made much worse if you suspect that your cancer could have been diagnosed at an earlier point of time. If you have any concerns about the treatment you have received, please call one of our clinical negligence solicitors for a quick chat.