Breast cancer stages range from 0-4. Each stage has different symptoms and treatment options.
Breast cancer has four stages, and a doctor uses the TNM staging system to identify which of these four stages the breast cancer has reached.
The TNM staging system also uses numbers. The numbers from 0-4 determine how advanced the cancer is.
The system is overseen by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). This means all cancer doctors describe and classify the stages of cancer in the same way.
To determine which stage a person's breast cancer has reached, a doctor will perform tests. Tests include blood tests, CT and PET scans, MRI's, X-rays, including a mammogram, and ultrasounds.
Stage 0 breast cancer,ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct. In Stage 0 breast cancer, the atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ is very early cancer that is highly treatable, but if it’s left untreated or undetected, it can spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Lobular carcinoma in situ at Stage 0 generally is not considered cancer. Although it has carcinoma in the name, it really describes a growth of abnormal but non-invasive cells forming in the lobules. Some experts prefer the name lobular neoplasia for this reason because it accurately refers to the abnormal cells without naming them as cancer. LCIS, however, may indicate a woman has an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with LCIS, your doctor may recommend regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. He or she may also prescribe Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy medication that helps prevent cancer cells from growing.
There is a variety of treatment options for stage 0 breast cancer, including:
A lumpectomy involves removing cancerous cells from the breast. It is an option when the cells remain in one area. This is a relatively short and simple procedure, and a person should be able to go home after the surgery on the same day.
If cancerous cells appear throughout the breast, the doctor may recommend a mastectomy, which involves removing the entire breast. Plastic surgeons can rebuild the breast at the same time or a later date.
Stage 1 breast cancer is the earliest stage of what's considered invasive breast cancer. "Invasive" does not mean that the cancer has invaded other areas of your body. Rather, it simply means that the cells in your tumor have infiltrated the area past what's called the basement membrane.
When a tumor first begins, it has not yet grown past this membrane and isn't considered cancer, but rather carcinoma in situ. These tumors are referred to as stage 0 tumors. Carcinoma in situ is 100% curable with surgery since the cells are completely contained.
Stage 1 tumors are the earliest stage of true breast cancer. These tumors are small, and if they have spread at all to lymph nodes, the spread is only microscopic.
To understand how your doctor determines the stage of your cancer, and if you have a stage 1A or stage 1B tumor, it's helpful to know a little about something called the TNM system of classification.
Treatment options for stage 1 breast cancer fall into two main categories:
If a tumor is very small, local treatments are usually all that's required. If the tumor is larger, more aggressive (has a higher tumor grade), has spread to lymph nodes, or has a molecular profile that indicates it's more likely to spread, systemic treatments are usually recommended.
With stage 1 breast cancers, the use of systemic therapy is considered adjuvant (add-on) therapy. The goal is to eliminate any cancer cells that may have spread beyond the breast but are too small to be detected.
In consult with your doctor, weigh the pros and cons of each option in relation to your case (e.g., family history, where you tumor is located, etc.)
Stage 2A breast cancer is an invasive cancer where:
Stage 2B breast cancer is an invasive breast cancer where:
Systemic therapy is recommended for women with stage II breast cancer. Some systemic therapies are given before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy), and others are given after surgery (adjuvant therapy). Neoadjuvant treatments are often a good option for women with large tumors, because they can shrink the tumor before surgery, possibly enough to make BCS an option. But this doesn’t improve survival more than getting these treatments after surgery. In some cases, systemic therapy will be started before surgery and then continued after surgery.
The drugs used will depend on the woman’s age, as well as tumor test results, including hormone-receptor status, HER2 status, and the score on a gene panel such as Oncotype DX). Treatment may include:
Stage 3 breast cancer refers to cancer in the breast that has spread to several nearby lymph nodes. Doctors also describe breast cancer as stage 3 if a tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and cancer has spread to any lymph nodes, but not to distant organs.
At stage 3, breast cancer may also spread to the chest wall or the skin of the breast.
Receiving a stage 3 cancer diagnosis can be distressing, but life expectancy and treatments are improving all the time.
This article looks at the survival rates for stage 3 breast cancer, as well as treatment options, remission, and ways of coping with the diagnosis.
Treatment of stage 3 breast cancer typically involves a combination of medication and surgery, based on a person's particular circumstances.
Drug-based treatments can include chemotherapy, targeted cancer drugs, hormone therapy or a combination.
Chemotherapy involves destroying cancer cells with anticancer drugs. There are many side effects of chemotherapy, but they usually subside, once a person has finished treatment.
the five-year survival rate after diagnosis for people with stage 4 breast cancer is 22 percent.
This percentage is considerably lower than at earlier stages. At stage 3, the five-year relative survival rate is 72 percent. At stage 2, it’s over 90 percent.
Because survival rates are higher in the early stages of breast cancer, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial.
Survival rates for breast cancer are based on studies of many patients with the condition. However, these statistics can’t predict your personal outcome, as each person’s prognosis is different.
Your life expectancy with metastatic breast cancer may be affected by:
Typically, treatment for stage 4 breast cancer includes a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy (if appropriate).
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the protein that allows cancer cells to grow and this type of therapy may also be an option for people with stage 4 breast cancer.
Sometimes, surgeons will operate to try and remove tumors though this is not usually the first option for treatment.
Doctors, however, may recommend surgery to help with pain relief by treating some of the issues that may develop as a result of having stage 4 breast cancer. These include spinal cord compression, removing single masses caused by metastasis, and fixing any broken bones.
A doctor may also prescribe medication to treat related symptoms such as: