Breast Cancer Stages

Discover the Different Breast Cancer Stages

Knowing the stages of breast cancer can help determine your treatment options.

The purpose of staging system is to help arrange the different aspects of the cancer in order to:

  • Direct your treatment decisions
  • Provide  a common system in order to describe the extent of breast cancer for doctors and nurses all over the world

Breast Cancer Stages are divided into the following stages: stage 0, stage 1, stage 2, stage 2A, stage 2B, stage 3, stage 3A, stage 3B, stage 3C, stage 4

Early Breast Cancer Stages

  • Stage 0
  • Stage I
  • Stage II
  • Some stage III

Later or Advanced Breast Cancer Stages

  • Other stage III
  • Stage IV

Stage 0 Breast Cancer

Stage 0 breast cancer is used to describe non-invasive breast cancers, for instance DCIS and LCIS. In stage 0 breast cancer there is no evidence of cancer cells or non-cancerous abnormal cells breaking out of the part of the breast in which they started, or of getting through to or invading neighboring normal tissue. According to the American Cancer Society the 5 year survival rate is nearly 100% if diagnosed at stage 0.

Stage 1 Breast Cancer

Stage 1 breast cancer usually means that the cancer is noninvasive and contained only in the breast tissue. The tumor measures up to 2 centimeters in diameter and there is no lymph node involvement. According to the American Cancer Society if the breast cancer is detected at this stage chance of survival is nearly 100% likely.

Stage 2 Breast Cancer

Stage 2 breast cancer is divided into subcategories known as stage 2A and stage 2B.

Stage 2A Breast Cancer

Stage 2A breast cancer describes invasive breast cancer in which there is no tumor present in the breast however there are cancer cells in the axillary (underarms) lymph nodes. In stage 2A breast cancer there may be a tumor present that is less then 2 centimeters in diameter that has spread to the axillary lymph nodes or there is a tumor that is larger then 2 centimeters but less then 5 centimeters in diameter but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage 2B Breast Cancer

Stage 2B breast cancer describes invasive breast cancer in which the tumor is larger then 2 centimeter but smaller then 5 centimeters in diameter and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes or the tumor is larger then 5 centimeters but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage 3 Breast Cancer

Stage 3 breast cancer is divided into subcategories known as 3A, 3B, and 3C.

Stage 3A Breast Cancer

Stage 3A breast cancer describes invasive breast cancer in which there is no tumor in the breast but cancer is found in the axillary lymph nodes. The cancer is clumped together or is sticking to other structures and may have spread to the breastbone. Breast cancer is also considered stage 3A if the tumor is 5 centimeters or smaller and has spread to axillary lymph nodes that are clumped together or sticking to other structures or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes that are clumped together or sticking to other structures.

Stage 3B Breast Cancer

Stage 3B breast cancer describes invasive breast cancer in which the tumor can be any size and has spread to the skin of the breast and/or chest and may have spread to the axillary lymph nodes that are clumped together or sticking to other strictures or cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes that are near the breast bone.  Inflammation of the breast may occur.

Stage 3C Breast Cancer

Stage 3C breast cancer describes invasive breast cancer in which there may be no sign of cancer in the breast or, if there is a tumor, it may be any size and may have spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast. The cancer may have also spread to the lymph nodes below or the collarbone. The cancer also may have spread to the axillary lymph nodes or to lymph nodes which are near the breastbone.

Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Stage 4 breast cancer describes invasive breast cancer in which the cancer has spread to other organs in the body usually the lungs, liver, bone, and/or the brain.

Stage 4 breast cancer is also known as metastatic cancer. “Metastatic at presentation” means that the breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and axillary lymph nodes and the lymph nodes near the breast bone. Although this may be the first diagnosis of breast cancer the reason is because the breast cancer was not found in an earlier stage.

Survival rates are considered the 5 year survival rate. It is important to know that mMany survivors live well beyond 5 years after diagnosis. The percentage of survival is based on the number of patients that survive 5 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Although survival statistics can sometimes be useful as a general guide the American Cancer Society warns that 5 year survival rates may not accurately represent any one person’s prognosis for breast cancer survival. There are a number of other factors including age, general health, outlook, etc that may affect your survival rate.

I intentionally am not including survival rates. My own personal experience is that a statistic is just that—a statistic. When I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer eight years ago, I fortunately wasn’t given a prognosis of ‘how much time I had left’.  In fact, I am quite grateful that my oncologist would not give me a prognosis.  As she says, the only one that knows that is God.  Knowing though that I had Stage 4 cancer, I felt that I needed to do whatever I could to live, and not just rely solely on conventional medicine which explained that there wasn’t anything they could do to save my life, but they would work to prolong it.

I was first diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 33, eight months after I had my first child.  My husband, Kevin, was diagnosed with Stage 3B malignant melanoma in 1999 at the age of 34.  When I was first diagnosed with Stage 2B, within the first 5 minutes of looking for ‘statistics’ I went into a depression — and my chances were good at an 85% survival rate.  Knowing how depressed I was, Kevin took over the research from there.  When my husband, was diagnosed with a later stage cancer, Stage 3B malignant melanoma, we made a deal.  We wouldn’t do any research for ourselves relating to a prognosis or treatment protocols.  We would only do it for each other.

When I was diagnosed with a recurrence, Stage 4, we disregarded the statistics altogether.  That might not be the right decision for everyone, but I found that it didn’t serve me to go into a negative place.  I wanted to be supported and inspired.  I needed to have a fighting chance, I needed hope, and I looked for it anywhere I could find it.  I could not find that in the statistics that conventional medicine was providing.  That turned out to be the right decision for us and I chose instead to take control of my own health and pursue many different ways to improve my health including alternative methods of treatment and a cancer-reversing diet.  That proved to be the right decision because 8 years later we are both cancer free.

After the breast cancer has been diagnosed there may be additional breast cancer screening that needs to be done.

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