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Breast Cancer: Understanding the Stages

Breast Cancer: Understanding the Stages
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Breast cancer is defined by 5 different stages. Defined by stages 0 – 4, each stage helps doctors and other medical professionals to determine the best course of action when it comes to taking care of your health and the cancer.

How do they determine what stage someone might be in?

Doctors determine the stage someone with breast cancer might be in by measuring the spread of the disease upon diagnosis. Each stage depends on how large the tumor is, where it has spread and whether it’s affected the lymph nodes or not. Lymph nodes are located in different areas of our immune system that help us fight infection and diseases.

Stage 0 – Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

The abnormal cells are still located in your milk ducts and haven’t affected the fatty tissue in your breast. The tumors may be very small still inside the breast glands and have not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 1

This stage is broken up into Stage 1A and Stage 1B. 1A is defined as no tumor in the actual breast but a small cluster has formed in the lymph nodes. 1B is defined as having a tumor the size of a peanut (less 2cm) in the breast.

Stage 2

Similar to stage 1, this stage is broken up into 2A and 2B. The difference between the two different stages depend on the size of the tumor and whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 2A can be either the following:

  • no tumor but the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes
  • tumor is present but is less than 2 cm AND it appears to have spread to the lymph nodes
  • tumor is between 2 and 5cm in breast

Stage 2B means that the tumor is between 2 and 5 cm in size and has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes OR the tumor is larger than 5 cm

Stage 3

Stage 3 cancer means the breast cancer has extended to beyond the immediate region of the tumor and may have invaded nearby lymph nodes and muscles, but has not spread to distant organs. There are 3 stages:

Stage 3A:

  • tumor is less than 2cm but has spread to several lymph nodes
  • tumor is larger than 5cm and cancer cell clusters can be found in lymph nodes
  • tumor is larger than 5cm and the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes like the underarm

Stage 3B means tumor is any size, cancer has spread to the chest wall and up to 9 lymph nodes

Stage 3C:

  • no tumor OR tumor of any size and cancer has spread to 10+ lymph nodes
  • no tumor OR tumor of any size and the cancer has spread to the collar bone
  • no tumor OR tumor of any size and the cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the underarm and breastbone

Stage 4 – metastatic breast cancer

Stage 4 cancers have spread beyond the breast and surrounding lymph nodes to other parts of the body.

Please note: We are not professionals in the medical field. We are here to inform you. Always consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your health. They will know the best treatment plan for you.

Sources:
http://www.jbcp.jo/understandingbreastcancer/33
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/treatment-of-breast-cancer-by-stage.html