If Breast Cancer Is Detected
If cancer is found, we need to classify what stage it's in to determine the appropriate
course of treatment. Cancer is staged using the numbers 0 through IV.
Click on the following link to view About Breast Health's staging calculator:
Stage 0 cancers also are called noninvasive carcinoma or carcinoma in situ
(in one place) cancers. These include Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) and Ductal
Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). Although they do not have the ability to spread to other
parts of your body or invade normal breast tissue, it's important to have DCIS removed
because it eventually can become invasive cancers. Finding and treating a cancerous
lump at this stage offers the best chance for a full recovery.
Stage I to IV cancers are invasive tumors that have the ability to spread
to other areas of the body. Stage I and stage II are early stages of breast cancer
in which the cancer has spread beyond the lobe or duct and attacked nearby tissue.
Stage I means the tumor is no more than about one in 2cm across and cancer
cells have not spread beyond the breast.
Stage II means one of the following:
- The tumor in the breast is less than 2cm across, and the cancer has spread to the
lymph nodes under the arm;
- The tumor is between 2-5cm (with or without the spread to the lymph nodes under
the arm); or
- The tumor is larger than 5cm but has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
Stage III is also called locally advanced cancer. In this stage:
- The tumor in the breast is more than 5cm across, and the cancer has spread to the
underarm lymph nodes;
- The cancer is extensive in the underarm lymph nodes; or
- The cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone or to other tissues near
Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of locally advanced breast cancer in which
the breast looks red and swollen because cancer cells block the lymph vessels in
the skin of the breast.
Stage IV is metastatic cancer, which means the cancer has spread beyond the
breast and underarm lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
This staging system is often altered to reflect new information. The stages are
calculated twice - once by your surgeon, who makes a clinical estimate, and then
the second by a pathologist who examines the tissue that has been removed under
a microscope and determines the pathological stage.
Recurrent cancer means the condition has come back following the initial
treatment. Even when a tumor in the breast seems to have been completely removed,
the condition sometimes returns because undetected cancer cells remained somewhere
in the body after treatment. While most recurrences appear within the first two
to three years after treatment, breast cancer can recur many years later. Cancer
that returns only in the area that was previously treated is called a local recurrence.
If the condition returns in another part of the body, the distant recurrence is
called metastatic breast cancer.