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Stages of Breast Cancer

Updated on October 5, 2011

The term breast cancer refers to a tumor that develops from cells in the breast, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts. For examining the stages of breast cancer, a tissue is removed during mastectomy or lumpectomy and of the lymph nodes under your arm. The stages give information about the size of the tumor and its credibility to other tissues. Breast cancer stage takes into account how large the cancer is and whether it has spread beyond the breast. There are five stages of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer | Source

Different Stages of Breast Cancer

  • Stage 0 – Stage 0 is used to describe non-invasive breast cancers. The cancer cells remain does not invade into the adjacent breast tissue; they remain inside the breast duct. It is also known as ‘ductal carcinoma in situ’ (DCIS) or ‘lobular carcinoma in situ’ (LCIS).
  • Stage I – This stage is defined as the early stage of cancer. This stage is possibly curable. The size of the tumor is up to 2 cm; and the lymph nodes are not involved.
  • Stage II– The following conditions hold true for this stage:
    • The size of the tumor is between 2 to 5 cm and the lymph nodes may or may not be involved.
    • The size of the tumor is either 2 cm or less and the axillary lymph nodes are involved.
    • The size of the tumor is larger than 5 cm, but the tumor has not spread till the axillary lymph nodes.

  • Stage III– The following conditions hold true for stage III:
    • The size of the tumor is larger than 5 cm and it has also spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
    • The size of the tumor is smaller than 5 cm, but the cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes. The nodes are affecting the surrounding tissue.
  • Stage IV – This stage is described as the ‘advanced’ and/or ‘metastatic’ cancer stage. This stage is incurable. Till the time this stage is reached, cancer gets spread to other parts of the body as well including lungs, liver, brain, etc.

The purpose of classifying the stages is to better understand the prognosis and to take the proper treatment steps. You must visit your doctor if you experience any breast changes as the process of diagnosing breast cancer generally takes several weeks.


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