The Stages of Breast Cancer

Following a breast cancer diagnosis, medical professionals will look to see whether and how far the disease has spread. Staging is the term for this process. The cancer’s stage indicates how much cancer is present in the body. Determining the stage helps doctors evaluate the cancer’s severity and the most effective course of treatment. When discussing survival statistics, breast cancer doctors also refer to the stage of the malignancy. At Texas Breast Center, Dr. Gorman is dedicated to offering her patients the most advanced, personalized, and targeted approach to treating breast cancer with breast surgery. Her compassionate care, expertise, and dedication to continuing medical education make her patients feel at ease knowing she is on their team. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Gorman, call Texas Breast Center today.

What are the different stages of breast cancer?

Most patients want to know what their breast cancer stage is as soon as they receive the initial medical diagnosis of breast cancer. Breast cancer is understood to have five stages. The American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM staging system (AJCC cancer staging manual) is the staging method most frequently utilized for breast cancer. The most recent TNM system, effective January 2018, has both pathology and clinical staging systems for breast cancer.

Dr. Gorman will provide you with further information about the stage of your breast cancer when you speak with her at your appointment. She will take the time to thoroughly explain what your particular stage means, as well as listen to and answer any of your questions.

Stage 0

The earliest stage of breast cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ, occurs when abnormal but non-invasive cells are found in the lining of the breast milk duct. There is no proof that the cancer has spread (metastasis), and it is still quite treatable at this point. This stage is also known as pre-cancer or early-stage breast cancer. Dr. Gorman will assist you in developing a treatment strategy.

Stage 1

In the next stage, there is undeniable proof of the presence of breast cancer cells rather than abnormal cells. The good news is that stage I breast cancer has a high chance of being successfully treated when diagnosed early and therapy is initiated.

Typically, Stage I is separated into stage Ia and stage Ib. Ia refers to a tumor size that is less than 2 cm in size and does not show signs of spreading to the axillary lymph nodes. When there is only a small amount of evidence of cancer in the breast and lymph nodes, but either no tumor is present in the breast tissue or the tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters, the diagnosis is Ib.

Stage 2

When cancer is identified as being stage II breast cancer, the tumor is larger and is still growing, but at this point, it is only inside the breast tissue or lymph nodes. Again, there are subsections for stage II that deal with the size of any tumor and whether or not there is spread to nearby lymph nodes. By its very nature, stage II cancer is considered invasive breast cancer and will require a more aggressive course of treatment than stage I cancer. However, the prognosis is still favorable, with excellent breast cancer survival rates, providing treatment is initiated early.

Stage 3

A stage III cancer diagnostic indicates that the tumor has spread to other areas of the body. At this point, it will not have started to affect other distant organs. Many oncologists classify this cancer as being “advanced.” The majority of recent treatment option developments have, however, made substantial strides at this stage. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are potential treatment options at this stage.

Stage III cancer treatment is divided into two categories based on the severity of the disease and how many lymph nodes are involved. Some stage III breast cancer is also called inflammatory breast cancer. The tumor may just need to be shrunk with chemotherapy first, and if the patient responds well to the medication, breast cancer surgery may then be explored in the future. It’s crucial to keep an optimistic attitude and observe how your cancer responds to treatment.

Stage 4

Breast cancer that has reached stage IV has spread to other parts of the body and is also known as metastatic breast cancer. The brain, bones, thoracic wall (chest wall), sternum, skin, clavicle, liver, or lungs may be areas it has spread to at this stage. Stage IV breast cancer is often managed as a chronic condition because it is not thought to be curable. The outlook for many women is significantly better thanks to modern medical advancements, combined with a positive mental attitude and view on life. There is always hope at every stage because breast cancer research, clinical trials, and improvements in breast cancer treatment are continuous.

See the related article on Does Every Breast Cancer Patient Need Surgery?

More FAQ’s about Breast Cancer Staging

What procedures are used to determine the stages of breast cancer?

The following diagnostic tests can be used to determine the stage of breast cancer:

  • Mammogram
  • Breast MRI
  • Blood tests
  • Bone scan
  • PET scan
  • CT scan
  • Breast biopsy
  • Ultrasound

How fast does breast cancer spread?

All types of cancers are capable of spreading, but whether they do and how quickly they spread depends on a few different factors. The type of breast cancer you actually have is the main factor your doctor uses to assess whether or not your disease will spread quickly. Different breast cancers develop at varying rates. Given that every cancer diagnosis is unique, it is challenging to provide a general prediction of how quickly breast cancer may spread.

Finding the typical growth rate of breast cancer is as challenging as figuring out how long breast cancer takes to develop. The amount of time it takes for a tumor to double in size has been studied in many ways, but the results are highly variable depending on the type of breast cancer and the patient.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact rate at which breast cancer can grow and spread because different forms of the disease frequently exhibit varied characteristics. However, doctors are aware that some forms of breast cancer tend to be more aggressive and spread quickly, whereas other forms usually advance more slowly.

Generally speaking, the likelihood that your tumor will spread to neighboring tissue and other parts of your body increases as it grows. Several variables, including breast cancer grades, can affect how quickly your breast cancer grows. Special proteins called receptors have a role in the growth and survival of cancer cells. Breast tumors with hormone receptors, which depend on the growth hormone estrogen, progress more slowly than other types.

Other types, however, may be more aggressive and rapidly growing. These include triple-negative breast cancer, which lacks hormone receptors and HER2, and HER2-positive tumors (also sometimes referred to as HER2/neu proteins), which depend on a different type of protein for growth.

It is more likely that cancer that has spread to other places in your body will do so again. Your chance of the cancer spreading increases with the stage of breast cancer you have.

Can you do anything to prevent or slow the spread of breast cancer?

There is no guaranteed method for preventing breast cancer. However, there are certain things you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk. While breast cancer cannot always be prevented, it can occasionally be slowed down, prevented from spreading, or even have its size reduced. You can accomplish this by following all prescription instructions, completing all prescribed treatments, attending all scheduled visits with your oncologist or breast cancer surgeon, and actively participating in your breast cancer treatment.

Correct drug administration, a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and stress management are all things you can control. All of these things can help you become more physically fit and which leads to a more positive outlook on life, which can have a positive impact on your breast cancer diagnosis.

What are the survival rates at each of the breast cancer stages?

In the United States, non-metastatic invasive breast cancer patients have a 90% five-year survival rate. For women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer, the ten-year survival rate is 84% on average.

Women with invasive breast cancer have a 99% five-year survival rate if the disease only affects the breast. Sixty-five percent (65%) of breast cancer diagnoses in women are at this stage. In the United States, women between the ages of 15 and 39 are less likely than women over the age of 65 to have their breast cancer detected at an early stage (68% of cases in this age range). This might be because, unless a person is at a greater risk, the majority of mammography and breast cancer screening doesn’t start until age 40.

The five-year survival rate is 86% if the malignancy has progressed to the lymphatic system. The five-year survival rate is 29% if the cancer has progressed to a distant area of the human body.

The likelihood of recovery for any given person is dependent on a variety of factors, including the size of the tumor, the number of lymph nodes that have cancer, and other characteristics of the tumor that affect how quickly a tumor will grow and how well the treatment works. It is important to remember that these statistics are averages. As a result, it can be challenging to calculate each person’s likelihood of surviving.

When it comes to breast cancer survival and the best treatment options, early diagnosis is crucial. If you have any concerns about recent changes in your breasts or possible breast cancer symptoms, speak with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and determine whether you require a physical examination, additional testing, or medical imaging.

Dedicated to giving her patients the finest care possible, breast surgeon Valerie Gorman, MD, FACS, puts all of her passion and determination into her work. She believes that treating every patient from the time of their initial diagnosis will provide her with a long-term perspective on their disease and how it is progressing. Dr. Gorman’s kindness and attentiveness are just two reasons that patients choose her for their breast cancer surgery. To request an appointment with Dr. Gorman, call Texas Breast Center or visit the website for more information.

Statistics from