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Stages of Breast Cancer

The pathology reports for those who suffer from breastcancer usually include certain information concerning the stage of the actualcancer. That kind of information usually includes the limitations of thecancer, whether it has spread to other parts of the body and so on. The stagesof breast cancer are commonly expressed as numbers. The stage of the actualcancer can be determined by certain characteristics such as whether the cancerhas spread to other parts of the body beyond the breast, whether cancer is inthe lymph nodes, whether the cancer is invasive or non invasive, and the sizeof the cancer. When the cancer is referred to as distant, that means that itcan also be found in other parts of the body. Regional breast cancer is the onethat has spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Local breast cancer isconfined within the affected breast. Breast cancer may also sometimes bereferred to as regionally advanced or locally advanced, which means that itinvolves visible lymph node enlargement, changes to the breast’s shape andtumors in underlying chest structures or the breast skin. One needs to be wellinformed about the stage of the breast cancer in order to have a betterunderstanding of the most likely outcome of this dreadful disease. Stages alsodetermine important options when it comes to treatment plans. There are certainsituations in which the doctors use a different staging system for thedescription of individual cases of cancer. This system is referred to as TNMand it stands for tumor (T), lymph node involvement (N) and metastasis (M).

Stage 0, I and II

Stage 0 defines the least dangerous type of breast cancer,which is the non invasive one. In most cases it is ductal carcinoma in situ orDCIS, as it is commonly referred to. This stage of breast cancer involves nocancer cells or any other types of abnormal cells. All different sorts ofinvasive breast cancers start with the stage I. This means that the cancerouscells invade the normal, healthy tissue which surrounds them. Stage I commonlydoes not involve any lymph nodes but it involves tumors which may be up to 2centimeters big. Microscopic invasion can occur in the first stage of breastcancer and if it does, it involves cancer cells which are not bigger than amillimeter and their invasion on the tissues outside the lobules or ducts isusually just started. As far as stage two goes, there are actually twosubcategories, which include stage IIA and stage IIB. Stage IIA is commonlyused to describe tumors which are larger than 2 centimeters but are not larger than5 centimeters and which have not spread to nearby lymph nodes. This stage ofbreast cancer may also involve tumors which are not larger than 2 centimetersbut did spread to the nearby lymph nodes. Stage IIA may also refer to cases ofbreast cancer which involve no tumors in the breast but in the lymph nodesthemselves. Stage IIB of breast cancer involves either tumors larger than 5centimeters which have not spread to the lymph nodes or tumors which arebetween 2 and 5 centimeters big but which did spread to the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III and IV

Stage III of breast cancer is further divided into threesubcategories which include stage IIIA, stage IIIB and stage IIIC. Stage IIIAinvolves either no tumors or tumors of any size accompanied by cancer cells inthe lymph nodes which are clumped together. Stage IIIB is in most cases usedfor the situations in which the cancer has spread to the skin of the breast,the lymph nodes near the breastbone or perhaps the chest wall. This stage isusually the one most often associated with inflammatory breast cancer which ischaracterized by warmness, swelling and reddening. Stage IIIC of breast cancercommonly involves cancer cells which have spread to nodes near the collarboneor the breastbone. Stage IV breast cancer is used for the cases in which thecancer cells have spread to the brain, liver, skin, distant lymph nodes, lungsand other organs of the body.


Those who are diagnose with ductal carcinoma in situ or DCISshould not worry much, because most cases get cured completely. More than 90percent of persons affected by stage I breast cancer live for more than 5 yearsand more than 85 percent of persons survive for more than 50 years. In cases ofpeople affected by stage II breast cancer, there are more than 60 percent ofthem who live for more than 10 years. There are approximately 40 percent ofpeople affected by stage III breast cancer who manage to survive for more than10 years.

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