Breast Cancer Stages
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|Breast Cancer Staging: Explained
Breast cancers vary according to location and other characteristics. For this reason, what may happen to one woman with breast cancer will not necessarily happen to another. To help distinguish between breast cancers, doctors frequently refer to a system known as the international TNM staging system. The T stands for tumor size, the N for number of lymph nodes affected and M for the presence of metastases (cancer) in other parts of the body. In other words, staging describes the extent of the cancer in the body. The stage of cancer will determine which type of breast cancer treatment is used. It also helps determine the woman's prognosis - her chance of cure and life expectancy. Each stage will have a specific breast cancer survival rate.
In order to stage a cancer, clinicians need to verify the presence of a tumor (if there is one), what size it is, have cancerous cells spread beyond the breast ducts or lobules to the breasts themselves or to nearby lymph nodes or beyond. To do this, various procedures may be carried out, including:
Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan)
CT Guided Needle Biopsy
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
Stage 0 Breast Cancer
Cancer at stage 0 is confined to the duct or lobules of the breast and is called either ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). The TNM status for this is T0 N0 M0. Stage 0 is considered by some scientists as 'pre-cancer', as women with DCIS or LCIS may never develop breast cancer. They view it as an advanced form of hyperplasia or abnormal cell overgrowth. That said women with DICS or LCIS have a 25 percent increased risk of developing further invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. For this reason, how to treat women with Stage 0 breast cancer is one of the most controversial in breast cancer therapy.
Stage 1 Breast Cancer
Stage 1 cancer consists of a small lump less than 2 cm across and has invaded the breast beyond the ducts or lobules. It has not however spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Stage 1 and 2 are most likely to be treated with lumpectomy operation.
Stage 1 is subdivided into group A and B:
Stage 2 Breast Cancer
There is no concrete sign that cancer has spread (metastases) beyond the breast but a slightly larger lump (tumor) or enlarged lymph nodes (see lymphatic system) suggests that more trouble may be imminent.
Stage 2 is subdivided into group A and B:
Group 2A can be either:
Group 2B can be either:
Stage 3 Breast Cancer
At this stage a tumor may be larger than 5cm or has invaded the chest wall or surrounding skin. Lymph nodes are enlarged but scans and tests of bones, liver, lungs and other organs show no concrete signs of cancer. The 5 year survival rate for women with stage 3 breast cancer drops to 50 percent, which suggests in many cases that cancer is lurking in distant organs, it may just not reveal itself yet. This will require a mastectomy. Most women also opt for breast reconstruction surgery.
Stage 3 is subdivided into group A and B:
Group 3A can be either:
Group 3B can be either:
Stage 4 Breast Cancer
At this stage the breast cancer is highly invasive and detectable in other organs of the body and is considered incurable. That said, 10 percent of women with stage 4 cancer will be alive 5 years later. See also breast cancer recurrence.
According to the TNM staging system this is known as T(any) N(any) M1.
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