Understanding breast cancer stages

Monday, October 5, 2015

By: Betsy Hansen

Breast cancer is confusing. The different stages of the cancer make it even more so. The stage of cancer is determined by the size and location of the tumor, as well as if it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. After diagnosis, a patient should expect a full pathology report that explains where the tumor is and whether it has spread to both breasts.


The American Cancer Society estimated that 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer would be diagnosed in 2015.


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Stage 0 – This stage describes a non-invasive cancer in the breast. The cancer cells have remained in one place and are not moving into other tissue. Treatments can vary from lumpectomy to mastectomy.


Stage 1 – A two centimeter or smaller sized tumor has appeared in the breast, but has not spread. However, cancer cells may be found in the lymph nodes.


Stage 2 – The cancer cells are growing but have not spread anywhere but the breasts. Again, cancer cells may be present in the lymph nodes.


Stage 3 – This stage enters into the “advanced” category. In some cases, the tumor has grown larger. The cancer cells have grown out of the tumor and reached into the lymph nodes and muscles. The cancer has not spread to other organs, but it may be in the chest wall or skin.


Stage 4 – The cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This may include bones and the brain. At this stage, the cancer is believed to be incurable. Although with new advances in medical care, a patient’s life can be extended for a significant amount of time.


It’s important to note that each stage has many different tiers within itself. Learn more here.


To make an appointment with one of our breast experts, contact us here.



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