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Breast Cancer Stages

BREAST CANCER STAGES:

Stage 0:

This stage is used to describe non-invasive breast cancer. There is no evidence of cancer cells breaking through to or invading neighboring normal tissue.

Stage I:

This stage describes invasive breast cancer (cancer cells are breaking through to or invading neighboring normal tissue) in which

  • The tumor measures up to two centimeters, AND
  • No lymph nodes are involved.

Stage II:

This stage describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • The tumor measures at least two centimeters, but not more than five centimeters, OR
  • Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. Affected lymph nodes have not yet stuck to one another or to the surrounding tissues, a sign that the cancer has not yet advanced to stage III. (The tumor in the breast can be any size.)

Stage III:

Stage III is divided into subcategories known as IIIA and IIIB.

Stage IIIA:

This stage describes invasive breast cancer in which:

The tumor measures larger than five centimeters, OR

The tumor has spread to lymph nodes, and nodes are clumping or sticking to one another or surrounding tissue.

Stage IIIB:

This stage describes invasive breast cancer in which a tumor of any size has spread to the breast skin, chest wall, or internal mammary lymph nodes (located beneath the breast inside the chest)—and includes inflammatory breast cancer.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a very common here and very serious, aggressive type of breast cancer that is considered stage IIIB. The most distinguishing feature of inflammatory breast cancer is redness involving part or all of the breast. The redness feels warm. You may see puffiness of the breast's skin that looks like the peel of a navel orange ("peau d'orange"), or even ridges, welts, or hives. And part or all of the breast may be enlarged and hard. Inflammatory breast cancer is sometimes misdiagnosed as a simple infection.

Stage IV:

This stage includes invasive breast cancer in which a tumor has spread beyond the breast, underarm, and internal mammary lymph nodes. The tumor may have spread to the supraclavicular lymph nodes (nodes located at the base of the neck, above the collarbone), lungs, liver, bone, or brain.

Additional stage information:

You may also hear terms such as "early" or "earlier" stage, "later" or "advanced" stage breast cancer. Although these terms are not medically precise (they may be used differently by different doctors), here is a general idea of how they apply to the official staging system