What You Need to Know About the Stages of Cancer
The stages of cancer depend on the size of the breast tumor and the severity of the spreading to other parts of the body, like the lymph nodes. More often than not, the stage is unknown until after surgery to remove a tumor in the breast or underarm. Breast Specialty of Baton Rouge has helped explain what those stages mean so that you can better understand yours or loved ones’ situation.
Stage 0 breast cancer is early-stage and Stage IV is advanced cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.
Stage 0 is referred to as carcinoma in situ. For example, in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), abnormal cells are in the lining of a breast duct, but have not spread outside of the duct.
Stage IA is when the breast tumor is no more than 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) across, and has not spread to the lymph nodes. For reference, 2 centimeters is about the size of a whole, shelled peanut.
Stage IB is when the tumor is no more than 2 centimeters, and cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.
Stage IIA can describe two different scenarios. The first is when the tumor is no more than 2 centimeters across, and has spread to the lymph nodes. The second is when the tumor is a bit larger (between 2 and 5 centimeters), but it has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage IIB occurs when the tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters, and the cancer is found in the underarm lymph nodes. Also when the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters (about the size of a lime), but hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage IIIA. The tumor is no more than 5 centimeters across and the cancer has spread to the underarm lymph nodes attached to each other or nearby tissue. Or, the cancer may have spread to the breastbone lymph nodes.
Stage IIIB is when the breast tumor is any size and has spread into the chest wall or the skin of the breast (the breast may be swollen or have lumps). The cancer has also spread to the underarm or breastbone lymph nodes.
Stage IIIC. The breast cancer can be any size and has spread to the lymph nodes behind the breastbone and the underarm. Or, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes above or below the collarbone.
Stage IV is when the tumor is any size, and cancer cells have spread to other organs, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or brain.