After doctors diagnose a patient’s breast cancer, they determine the cancer’s “stage.” Our specialists at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper determine the stage of your cancer by seeing how much cancer there is, whether any lymph nodes are involved, and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.
There are four stages of breast cancer, which are further divided into categories based on various factors. With this important staging information, our experts can develop the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
The staging of your cancer does not refer to the specific type of breast cancer you have. Visit the Breast Cancer Types page for more information on the kinds of breast cancer.
Stage 0 Breast Cancer
Stage 0 breast cancer refers to non-invasive cancer, or a cancer that is in situ (in its original place). Ductal carcinoma in situ is a stage 0 cancer that is confined to the milk ducts of the breast. Because the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, this stage of breast cancer is more easily treated.
Stage I Breast Cancer
Stage I breast cancer is an invasive form of cancer that is confined to its original area or has spread to only a very small area.
An early-stage conditioncancer, Stage I breast cancer is more easily treated, usually with either with surgery (mastectomy or a breast-conserving surgery like a lumpectomy), chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Even though Stage I breast cancer is more easily treated, anyone who has had cancer has a risk that the cancer may recur, or come back. Any recurrence of your cancer will usually happen in the first five after your treatment. It is important to talk to your doctor about how you may decrease your risk of a recurrence.
Stage II Breast Cancer
Stage II breast cancer is invasive form of cancer that has grown but remains in the breast or has spread only to nearby lymph nodes.
Treatment for Stage II breast cancer typically includes surgery (mastectomy or a breast-conserving surgery like a lumpectomy), chemotherapy and/or radiation and possibly hormone therapy. The kind of treatment that is right for you depends upon your specific type of cancer and other factors.
Stage III Breast Cancer
Stage III breast cancer is an invasive form of cancer that can be found beyond the original tumor location, including the nearby lymph nodes and tissues.
Treatment for Stage III breast cancer typically includes surgery (mastectomy or a breast-conserving surgery like a lumpectomy), chemotherapy and/or radiation and possibly hormone therapy. Other treatment options may include targeted therapy, immunotherapy or participation in clinical trials. The kind of treatment that is right for you depends upon your specific type of cancer and other factors.
Stage IV Breast Cancer
Stage IV breast cancer is an invasive form of cancer that has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body, most commonly the lungs, brain, liver and bones. Stage IV breast cancer – sometimes called metastatic or advanced breast cancer.
Because at this stage the cancer has spread to different parts of the body, treatments are focused on slowing the spread of cancer and management of symptoms. Recent advances in treatment have resulted in good results and there are many women living with metastatic cancer for years.
How to Determine the Stage of Breast Cancer
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will talk to you about “staging” to see how much cancer there is, whether any lymph nodes are involved, and whether it has (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Determining the stage of your breast cancer may include several diagnostic and other tests, including:
- Report from pathology from your surgery or biopsy
- Physical exam
- Imaging studies (like mammogram, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging or positron emission tomography)
Your doctor will determine what tests you may need to stage your breast cancer. Once the tests are complete and the stage of your cancer is known, your doctor will talk to you about the findings and the best treatment options for your type and stage of cancer.
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper’s highly experienced team of experts use the advanced cancer diagnostic tools to accurately evaluate and diagnose your breast cancer.
The experts at Cooper offer the following breast cancer diagnostic tools:
- Digital screening and diagnostic mammography, including 3D screening and diagnostic imaging – to look for tumors and breast abnormalities
- Breast ultrasound – a non-invasive test often conducted after an abnormal mammogram or breast MRI
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy – uses sound waves to locate a breast lump or abnormality so tissue can be removed for testing
- Fine needle aspiration – a procedure in which a small amount of fluid or tissue is taken from the breast to look for cancer cells
- Stereotactic biopsy – a non-surgical procedure to evaluate a breast abnormality
- MRI – magnetic resonance imaging, when used with mammogram and ultrasound, can help determine the extent of a woman’s breast cancer
- MRI-guided biopsy – a minimally invasive procedure to collect a tissue sample from the breast using magnetic resonance imaging to locate the area for sampling
- Ductography – an X-ray that creates images of the milk ducts in the breast
- Breast tomosynthesis – an advanced kind that uses a low-dose of radiology to create 2D and 3D pictures of the breast