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Breast Cancer Awareness - Education

Education Categories:

Category: Stages of Breast Cancer

After breast cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the breast or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out whether the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

The following stages are used for breast cancer:

Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)

There are 2 types of breast carcinoma in situ:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive, precancerous condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct. The abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues, although it is not known at this time how to predict which lesions will become invasive.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lobules of the breast. This condition seldom becomes invasive cancer; however, having lobular carcinoma in situ in one breast increases the risk of developing breast cancer in either breast.

Stage I

In stage I, the tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller and has not spread outside the breast.

Stage IIA

In stage IIA:

  • no tumor is found in the breast, but cancer is found in the axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes under the arm); or
  • the tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes; or
  • the tumor is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 5 centimeters and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage IIB

In stage IIB, the tumor is either:

  • larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes; or
  • larger than 5 centimeters but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage IIIA

In stage IIIA:

  • no tumor is found in the breast, but cancer is found in axillary lymph nodes that are attached to each other or to other structures; or
  • the tumor is 5 centimeters or smaller and has spread to axillary lymph nodes that are attached to each other or to other structures; or
  • the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to axillary lymph nodes that may be attached to each other or to other structures.

Stage IIIB

In stage IIIB, the cancer may be any size and:

  • has spread to tissues near the breast (the skin or chest wall, including the ribs and muscles in the chest); and
  • may have spread to lymph nodes within the breast or under the arm.

Stage IIIC

In stage IIIC, the cancer:

  • has spread to lymph nodes beneath the collarbone and near the neck; and
  • may have spread to lymph nodes within the breast or under the arm and to tissues near the breast.

Stage IIIC breast cancer is divided into operable and inoperable stage IIIC.

In operable stage IIIC, the cancer:

  • is found in 10 or more of the lymph nodes under the arm; or
  • is found in the lymph nodes beneath the collarbone and near the neck on the same side of the body as the breast with cancer; or
  • is found in lymph nodes within the breast itself and in lymph nodes under the arm.

In inoperable stage IIIC breast cancer, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes above the collarbone and near the neck on the same side of the body as the breast with cancer.

Stage IV

In stage IV, the cancer has spread to other organs of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver, or brain.

Acknowledgement given to the National Cancer Institute as originator of the information provided herein, with the NCI web site www.cancer.gov as the source.

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