Breast Cancer Staging Chart

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The stage of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis is a critical piece of information that helps define the overall prognosis as well as the most appropriate treatment options of the person affected.

At diagnosis, the stage of breast cancer is typically determined by a staging system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). Called the tumor node metastasis (TNM) system, it classifies and groups breast cancer by the extent of the primary tumor (T), whether or not the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (N), and whether or not the cancer has spread or metastasized to other organs (M).

Each T, N and M category is then further defined by roman numerals (0, I, II, III to IV) or by letters (is: meaning carcinoma in situ, or X: meaning that it cannot be assessed). Additionally, in some forms of cancer, one of which is breast cancer, the TNM designators are further subdivided (i.e., T1a, T1b, T1c or N2a, N2b).

Following are the TNM designations for the nine different stages of breast cancer, and the definition of what these designations mean from the National Cancer Institute (NCI):

Stage 0 (in situ): Tis, N0, MO

There are two types of Stage 0 breast cancer, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) and ductual carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which are also referred to as non-invasive forms of breast cancer.

Stage IA Breast Cancer: T1, N0, M0

Breast cancer that has been diagnosed as Stage 1 means it is still small in size (approximately 2 centimeters or less) and is isolated in the breast.

Stage IB Breast Cancer: T0, N1mi, M0 / T1, N1mi, M0

In this stage, either no tumor is found in the breast, but small clusters of cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, or the tumor is 2 centimeters or less in size with clusters of cancer cells found in the lymph nodes.

Stage IIA Breast Cancer: T0, N1, M0 / T1, N1, M0 / T2, N0, M0

Stage IIA breast cancer can include one of three designations: 1) While no tumor is found in the breast, the cancer is found in the lymph nodes under the arm, 2) The tumor in the breast is smaller than 2 centimeters and has spread to lymph nodes under the arm, or 3) The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters but is not yet 5 centimeters and has not yet spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Stage IIB Breast Cancer: T2, N1, M0 / T3, N0, M0

In this second subset of Stage II cancer, the tumor in the breast is larger than 2 centimeters but is not yet 5 centimeters and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has not yet spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IIIA Breast Cancer: T0, N2, M0 / T1, N2, M0 / T2, N2, M0 / T3, N1, M0 / T3, N2, M0

Stage IIIA breast cancer can include one of four designations: 1) While no tumor is found in the breast, cancer is seen in the lymph nodes under the arm and may be attached to other nearby structures such as the breastbone, 2) The tumor is less than 2 centimeters in size, but has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm that are attached to one another or may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone 3) The tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters in size and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm that are attached to one another or may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone, or 4) The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm that are attached to each other or may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Stage IIIB Breast Cancer: T4, N0, M0 / T4, N1, M0 / T4, N2, M0

In the second subset of Stage II breast cancer, the tumor may be any size, but has spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast, or it may have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm that are attached to one another or may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Stage IIIC Breast Cancer: Any T, N3, MO

In this third subset of Stage III breast cancer, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes above and below the collarbone or may have spread to lymph nodes under the arm or to lymph nodes near the breastbone. Additionally, the tumor may be any size in the breast and may have already spread to the chest wall or the skin of the breast.

Stage IV Breast Cancer: Any T, Any N, M1

In Stage IV breast cancer, the cancer has spread to other organs. The most common organs that breast cancer spreads to includes the brain, bones, lungs or liver, or a combination of any of these.


 
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