Staging is the process of finding out how widespread the cancer is when it is found. The stage is the most important factor in deciding how to treat the cancer and determining how successful treatment might be.
To determine the cancer’s stage after a breast cancer diagnosis, doctors must answer these questions:
Is the cancer invasive or non-invasive?
How big is the breast tumor? Has it grown into nearby areas?
Has the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes? If so, how many are involved?
Has the cancer spread to other parts of the body?
Depending on the results of your physical exam and biopsy, you might need more tests to help determine the stage, such as a chest x-ray, mammograms of both breasts, bone scans, CT scans, MRI, and/or PET scans. Blood tests may also be done to evaluate your overall health or to check for spread to certain organs.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012, representing approximately 12% of all new cancer cases and 25% of all cancers in women. (3) In 2012, the global burden of cancer deaths was an estimated 8.2 million, with at least 65% of cancer deaths occurring in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs).(21) Global statistics shows that the annual incidence of breast cancer is increasing and this is occurring more rapidly in countries with a low incidence rate of breast cancer.
The estimated breast cancer mortality in Nigeria is one of the highest in the word—greater than 18.1 per 100,000 in 2012. This exceeds the mortality rate of 13.1-15.2 per 100,000 across United States and Canada and less than 10.1 per 100,000 in Mexico.
This mortality rate is especially striking, given that there are more diagnosed cases in North America (incidence rate greater than 64.8 per 100,000) than in Nigeria (see incidence rates above).
Delayed presentation often results in limited treatment options and high mortality rates. The etiology for these poor breast cancer outcomes in Nigerian patients are largely due to patient and systemic factors including, “poor public education and awareness, financial barriers, shortage of health workers, limited health infrastructure, poor management and planning, inequity in resource distribution, and access to care.” (24, 25).
Currently the greatest hurdle to patients implementing preventive measures detailed in numerous guidelines is lack of knowledge about signs, symptoms and guidelines.