Staging Your Breast Cancer
It's difficult to remember very many things after you hear the phrase "The biopsy came back as malignant." There is lots of talk about surgeons and oncologists and staging your cancer and options/choices you are going to have to make. Did you remember much of it? No.
Staging, in regards to breast cancer, is the process used to make the determination how much cancer the person is dealing with and if/how far it may have spread into other areas of the body. There are 5 Stages associated with Breast Cancer. They are as follows:
This stage involves both Ductal carcinoma it situ and Lobular Carcinoma in situ, or Paget's Disease before there is any tumor present.
Ductal Carcinoma in situ is breast cancer that has its beginning in the milk ducts of the breast. This is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for 80% of breast cancer diagnosis's.
Paget's Disease - (breast) is a rare form of breast cancer. Paget's disease of the breast starts on the nipple and extends to the dark circle of skin (areola) around the nipple. Paget's disease of the breast isn't related to Paget's disease of the bone, a metabolic bone disease.
Paget's disease of the breast occurs most often in women older than age 50. Most women with Paget's disease of the breast have underlying ductal breast cancer (in situ or, less commonly, invasive). Only in rare cases is the cancer confined to the nipple itself.
A stage 1 tumor is not bigger than 2 cm and is not invasive. It has not spread beyond the original site to lymph nodes or other organs.
Stage 2 tumors can be divided into two smaller stages.
Stage IIa- This can involve a tumor that is up to 2 cm in size but has spread to the moveable lymph nodes in the armpit region. It can also be a tumor that is between 2-5 cm in size without any lymph node involvement. Breast cancer can also be stage IIa if there is cancer found in the lymph nodes under the armpit without any evidence of a tumor. Lymph nodes are moveable at this point.
Stage IIb- Tumor is sized between 2-5 cm and has spread to the moveable lymph nodes but there is no evidence of spread to other organs. A cancer tumor without any known spread to other organs but is larger than 5 cm.
Stage 3 tumors are also divided between two smaller stages.
Stage IIIa - Lymph nodes involved here are fixed (attached). The
easiest way to describe this is through touch. Fixed lymph nodes feel thick and formed like a pencil thickness piece of cooked spaghetti. The tumor can be anywhere between 2-5 cm with these fixed
lymph nodes. Your tumor can also be over 5 cm in size with spread to fixed lymph nodes. A tumor over 5 cm that has spread to moveable lymph nodes also fits in this category. If there is no detectable tumor but there is fixed node involvement, this is also stage IIIa.
Stage IIIb- Consist of tumors any size with spread to lymph nodes and to the chest wall or skin OR to the lymph nodes along the breastbone.
These tumors are any size and has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, such as the liver, bone, or lungs.
We encourage you to visit CancerCare.org for discussion and support.