The Five Stages of Breast Cancer

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will classify the severity of your disease by stage and by subcategories within each stage, so that the most appropriate treatment options can be implemented for your particular case. Your doctor will inform you which of the five breast cancer stages applies to your disease and will propose a treatment plan designed to achieve the best possible outcome. Here’s a look at the breast cancer stages, all of which we are prepared to handle with the highest standard of care at Regional Cancer Care Associates.

Patient During Treatment

Stage 0

In Stage 0, the earliest stage of breast cancer also known as noninvasive cancer or precancer, the development of malignant (cancerous) cells has begun in the breast tissue. At this point, the cancer or abnormal cells have not spread beyond the breast tissue’s ducts and lobules. The most common form of Stage 0 breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which accounts for about one in five cases of all breast cancers.

Stage I

Your breast cancer is considered to be in Stage I when the tumor measures up to 2 centimeters (nearly 1 inch) in diameter and tumor cells are spreading to neighboring breast tissue. This stage is broken down into two categories, including:

  • Stage IA – Though the tumor has grown to roughly 2 centimeters and is becoming invasive, it still has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IB – The tumor is still up to 2 centimeters in size, but cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes. In some cases, there is no tumor present, but the lymph nodes develop small groups of cancer cells.

Stage II

If the disease progresses beyond the preliminary breast cancer stages, your breast cancer will be classified as Stage II. While the cancer is still contained in a centralized area of the breast, the tumor now measures between 2 and 5 centimeters (between nearly 1 inch and nearly 2 inches) and is definitely infecting the lymph nodes. There are two sub-stages of Stage II, which include:

  • Stage IIA – In some cases, cancer cells are present in up to three lymph nodes and have not spread to further areas of the body, with or without a tumor present. Or, the tumor measures between 2 and 5 centimeters, but the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IIB – One of two conditions are present. The tumor has spread to up to three lymph nodes, and it is larger than 2 centimeters but still smaller than 5 centimeters. Or, the tumor has grown larger than 5 centimeters but is not found in the lymph nodes.

Stage III

When breast cancer enters Stage III, the tumor has now grown to 5 centimeters (nearly 2 inches) in diameter and is still getting larger. In addition, the cancer has spread to more lymph nodes and tissues. There are three subcategories of this stage, including:

  • Stage IIIA – The cancer has now spread to up to nine lymph nodes, with or without the presence of a tumor, but has yet to spread to other regions of the body. Or, the tumor is now larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to up to three lymph nodes close by.
  • Stage IIIB – Inflammatory breast cancer has been diagnosed, or the tumor has grown into the chest wall, resulting in swelling or inflammation. The tumor may even break through the skin and cause ulceration. In any event, the tumor may or may not be affecting lymph nodes, and the cancer is still contained to the breast region.
  • Stage IIIC – This is when the tumor has spread to more than 10 lymph nodes, whether they’re axillary, internal mammary or under the collarbone. At this point, the disease has not spread to other parts of the body.

Stage IV

Also known as metastatic breast cancer, Stage IV is the most advanced stage of the disease. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes in all areas, the bones and organs. It is most commonly diagnosed in patients with a previous diagnosis in an earlier breast cancer stages, but it is also found in roughly 6% of new breast cancer cases.

Trust Your Care to Us

No matter which stage your breast cancer falls under, the team of experts at Regional Cancer Care Associates won’t let you fight alone. Once we determine the stage of your cancer, we will collaborate with our on-site oncologists, plastic surgeons and other specialists to devise an effective course of treatment. To learn more, contact us today.