Stages of Breast Cancer
Once a person is diagnosed with breast cancer as a result of a malignant tumor, the heath care team will then determine how far the disease has spread. The factors that determine stage are the size of the tumor in the breast, the number of lymph nodes affected, the axillary area (nearest lymph nodes found under the arm), and signs of whether or not the breast cancer has invaded other organs in the body. If the breast cancer has spread to other organs evidence may be found in the bones, lungs, liver, and/or brain.
There are 2 kinds of Stage 0 breast cancer. First there is DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). This in non-invasive breast cancer found in the lining of the milk ducts of the breast where abnormal cells have been found. These atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. The second kind of Stage 0 breast cancer called LCIS is technically not cancer but describes a growth of abnormal but non-invasive cells forming in the lobules also referred to as lobular neoplasia. Doctors do not know whether Stage O will become invasive yet catching breast cancer at this stage is very early.
Stage I can be divided into Stage IA and Stage IB. The difference is determined by the size of the tumor and the lymph nodes with evidence of cancer. Stage IA the tumor cells are 1 centimeter or smaller and has not spread or invaded the lymph nodes. Breast Cancer is very often treatable at this stage. Stage 1B the lymph nodes can have cancer evidence with small clusters of cells between the approximate size of a pinprick to the approximate width of a grain of rice (.2mm to 2.0 mm) and/or no tumor is found in the breast or the tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller.
Stage II breast cancer is divided into Stage IIA and Stage IIB. The malignant cells are still contained in the breast but may have spread to the lymph nodes. With stage IIA either there is no breast cancer tumor but the cancer will have spread to 1-4 lymph nodes, or the tumor in the breast is less than 2 centimeters and will have spread to 1-4 lymph nodes or the size of the tumor is greater than 2 centimeters and has not spread to the lymph nodes. With Stage IIB the tumor in the breast is either 2-5 centimeters and has spread to less than 4 axillary nodes or the tumor in the breast is greater than five centimeters but has not spread to any lymph nodes.
Stage III breast cancer is divided into Stage IIIA, Stage IIIB, and Stage IIIC. Although Stage IIIis advanced it still has not spread to distant organs. With stage IIIA either the tumor in the breast is less than 2 centimeters and has spread to 4-9 lymph nodes, or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and cancer is found in clusters in the lymph nodes, or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and the cancer has spread from 1-3 lymph nodes near the breast or underarm. Stage IIIB the tumor in the breast can be any size, cancer has spread to the chest wall or breast skin, plus the cancer may have spread to up to 9 lymph nodes. Stage IIIC there can be no tumor or the tumor can be of any size but the cancer will have spread to 10 or more lymph nodes, and may have spread to the chest wall, the collar bone, the underarm, and/or the breast bone. And lymph nodes under the arm and the breast bone are found to contain cancer. Stage IIIC is divided into operable and non-operable breast cancer. While the breast cancer may not be operable it still may be treatable.
Stage IV means that the breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as bone, lungs, liver, skin or the brain. There is no cure for Stage IV breast cancer but treatment can extend life. It is also known as Metastatic Breast Cancer. For more information go to: What is Metastatic Breast Cancer.