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Stages of Breast Cancer

Stages

The stage of breast cancer depends on the size of the breast tumor and whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Doctors describe the stages of breast cancer using the Roman numerals 0, I, II, III, and IV and the letters A, B, and C.

A cancer that is Stage I is early-stage breast cancer, and a cancer that is Stage IV is advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver.

The stage often is not known until after surgery to remove the tumor in the breast and one or more underarm lymph nodes.

Stage 0 : Very early breast cancer. This type of cancer has not spread within or outside the breast. It is sometimes called DCIS, LCIS, or breast cancer in situ or non-invasive cancer.

Stage I :  The cancer is no larger than about 1 inch in size and has not spread outside the breast. (Also described as early  breast cancer).

Stage II :  The doctor may find any of the following:

  • The cancer is no larger than 1 inch, but has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • The cancer is between 1 and 2 inches. It may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • The cancer is larger than 2 inches, but has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Stage III :  Stage III is divided into stages III A and III B:

Stage III A  : The doctor may find either of the following:

  • The cancer is smaller than 2 inches and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. The cancer also is spreading further to other lymph nodes.
  • The cancer is larger than 2 inches and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Stage III B : The doctor may find either of the following:

  • The cancer has spread to tissues near the breast (skin, chest wall, including the ribs and the muscles in the chest).
  • The cancer has spread to lymph nodes inside the chest wall along the breastbone.

Stage IV :  The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. Or, the tumor has spread locally to the skin and lymph nodes inside the neck, near the collarbone.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a rare, but very serious, aggressive type of breast cancer. The breast may look red and fell warm. You may see ridges, welts, or hives on your breast; or the skin may look wrinkled. It sometimes misdiagnosed as a simple infection.

Recurrent Breast Cancer: Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the breast, in the tissues of the chest (the chest wall), or in another part of the body.

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