Get Information About Breast Cancer in Austin

Breast cancer incidence rates in the United States began dropping at the turn of the millennium, but the disease is still a significant threat to women of all ages. An estimated 3.1 million women started 2021 with some history of breast cancer in their past, whether they had completed treatments to combat it or were still undergoing a treatment plan. More than 12% of all women in the U.S. are expected to develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their life, which means a woman has a roughly one in eight chance of personally dealing with the disease. The Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery team, which includes breast cancer survivors, is committed to providing reconstructive care, support, and education on everything from reconstruction options to breast cancer stages in Austin, TX. The information presented here is meant to serve as a jumping-off point for anyone who wants to learn about breast cancer. Our reconstructive plastic surgeons can further explain details about breast cancer stages and much more, but ultimately, their role in relation to breast cancer is in the area of reconstruction after mastectomy or with a lumpectomy, working in close harmony with a patient's surgical oncologist and greater medical team. The strategies and techniques our surgeons recommend will always come from a perspective that puts the patient's long-term health and safety first.

Breast Cancer Stages

There are many factors that go into accurately determining which stage of breast cancer a patient is experiencing. However, a simplified explanation is that breast cancer stages are determined by how far the cancer has spread, based on where cancer cells are found as well as the grade of the tumor, the presence of hormone receptors on the cancer cells, levels of HER2 protein made by the cells, and an Oncotype DX test to examine the cancer's genomic traits. There are five breast cancer stages, outlined here for general educational purposes. No patient should ever seek to diagnose herself or make determinations of medical care without being properly diagnosed by a doctor.

Stage 0

This first of the breast cancer stages indicates localized, non-invasive cancer cells that stay where they develop.

An example of Stage 0 breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

Next in the list of breast cancer stages is Stage I, which indicates that the cancer cells are beginning to move into surrounding tissue. At this point, the cancer can appear as a small tumor situated entirely in the breast, and there may be small collections of cancer cells in the lymph nodes. These two scenarios are considered substages of Stage I.

Stage II

Stage II is also broken into two smaller breast cancer stages.

Stage IIA indicates cancer in a certain number of lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone despite there being either no tumor, a small tumor and cancer cells found in the axillary lymph nodes, or a larger tumor that has not spread.

Stage IIB is used to describe a larger tumor and collections of cancer cells in the lymph nodes, a larger tumor and cancer cells found in a few axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone, or an ever bigger tumor that is still contained within the breast.

Note that there are numerous variations and unique scenarios that may cause cancer to be classified as Stage II.

Stage III

Perhaps the most nuanced and complicated of the various breast cancer stages, Stage III is broken into three parts: Stage IIIA is used to describe a lack of a tumor despite cancer cells found in numerous axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone, a larger tumor and small groups of cancer cells in the lymph nodes, or a larger tumor and cancer found in a few axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone. Stage IIIB indicates any size tumor that has formed an ulcer or caused swelling after spreading to the chest wall or skin and also spread to numerous axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone. Stage IIIC is reserved for cancer that has moved into at least 10 axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the collarbone or breastbone, whether there is a tumor of any size in the breast or not. As with other breast cancer stages, certain mitigating factors may indicate a lower stage, even if certain criteria here are met.

Stage IV

The last of the breast cancer stages is considered to be advanced, typically meaning that cancer cells have spread far beyond the breasts to be found in the bones, brain, or other organs throughout the body.

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Breast Cancer Treatments

Since cancer can take many forms, and there are multiple breast cancer stages, each with unique characteristics, there are numerous breast cancer treatments available. The goal of each treatment option is to eliminate the cancer cells from the body as effectively and safely as possible. The treatment is always tailored to the specific needs of the patient. Covered below are the most common and effective breast cancer treatment options.


Surgery options include the entire physical removal of one or both breasts and the cancer cells inside (mastectomy), removal of just the tumor and some tissue (lumpectomy), and lymph node removal or dissection. Patients who undergo surgery for breast cancer may opt for breast reconstruction to rebuild their breast mound.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves using high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It is typically administered to the outside of the breast, though there are also variations that involve internal radiation delivery, as well as radiation applied while a lumpectomy is in progress.


Chemotherapy is the term for using medicine to fight cancer. Since medications travel throughout the body, this treatment is often used when cancer cells have spread beyond the breast. The goal may be to destroy all cancer cells or to shrink a tumor prior to its surgical removal.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy works because certain cancers grow with exposure to estrogen, so reducing estrogen levels can lower the risk of these cancers recurring after surgical removal of cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy treatments focus on a particular aspect of cancer cells, making them a more selective approach than chemotherapy. For example, they may block the reception of chemical signals or inhibit cancer cell division.

Breast Reconstruction Options

A woman seeking breast reconstruction can opt for an immediate procedure, performed at the same time as a lumpectomy or mastectomy, or a delayed surgery, which can happen even years later. The specific options and techniques available depend on a host of factors, including past treatments, future planned treatments, breast size, the amount of tissue remaining after surgery, patient health, and more. Some women may need only a small amount of repair work after a mastectomy, while others may have an implant inserted to restore lost volume. A flap may be taken from elsewhere on the body to create a breast mound after mastectomy. At Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, our surgeons work with each patient to determine the ideal reconstructive procedure, explaining the many choices and offering guidance from the initial consultation onward. By clicking the links below, you can learn more about the different reconstruction options we offer:

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If you’re interested in learning more about breast cancer or your breast reconstruction options, contact Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery today to schedule a consultation with one of our reconstructive surgeons.

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