Breast cancer staging
Breast cancer staging
After discovering that you have breast cancer, your doctor will decide what additional tests may be helpful to find out if the disease has spread outside the breast. Called breast cancer staging, this process provides information about the extent of the disease. Doctors use Roman numerals to denote breast cancer stages. Breast cancer staging helps you and your doctor plan your treatment.
Information that helps determine your breast cancer stage
Your doctor determines your breast cancer stage by considering:
Tests and procedures used to stage your breast cancer
To gather the necessary information, your doctor will ask questions about your medical history, do a careful physical examination and review all the tests you've had. This can also include review of the results from the biopsy of the tumor or suspicious area. If you've already had surgery to remove your cancer and look for cancer cells in your lymph nodes, your doctor will use information from your pathology report.
Some additional tests may be needed, but most women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer don't need all the diagnostic tests available. Staging tests include:
Breast cancer stages
Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV, with many subcategories. Lower numbers indicate earlier stages of cancer, while higher numbers reflect late-stage cancers.
For example, a stage IIIA tumor is larger than 5 cm (2 inches) and has spread to one to three lymph nodes under the arm. Other stage IIIA tumors may be any size and have spread into multiple lymph nodes. The lymph nodes clump and attach to one another or to the surrounding tissue.
In stage IIIB breast cancer, a tumor of any size has spread to tissues near the breast — the skin and chest muscles — and may have spread to lymph nodes within the breast or under the arm. Stage IIIB also includes inflammatory breast cancer, an uncommon but aggressive type of breast cancer.
Stage IIIC cancer is a tumor of any size that has spread:
Primary breast tumors vary in shape and size. The smallest lesion that can be felt by hand is typically 1.5 to 2 centimeters (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch) in diameter. Sometimes tumors that are 5 ...
Where breast cancer spreads
Breast cancer that spreads (metastasizes) beyond the breast most commonly spreads to the bones, brain, liver and lungs. ...
Last Updated: 2012-02-17
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