As with all types of cancer, there are different breast cancer stages. All breast cancer stages depend on the condition of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. What stage the breast cancer is in generally refers to whether it has spread or not, and if it has, where to and how far.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 0 or Early Stage
Early stage or stage 0 breast cancer is localized, which means that the cancer is found only in the breast. At this stage, the cancerous growth is very small and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. There is an excellent chance for cure when breast cancer is caught in its earliest stage.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 1
Stage 1 is similar to stage 0. It is very small, measuring 2 centimeters or less, and it still is confined to the breast. Chances for survival with stage 1 cancer are also very good, and virtually all women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at this stage live at least 5 years.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 2
Breast cancer stage 2 is further divided into stage 2A and stage 2B.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 2A
Stage 2A breast cancer refers to a tumor that is still small – less than 2 centimeters – with some minimal spreading of the disease to the nearby lymph nodes. Stage 2A breast cancer also refers to tumors that have grown to between 2 centimeters and 5 centimeters across but have not yet spread to the neighboring, underarm lymph nodes.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 2B
Stage 2B breast cancer always indicates that the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. There are two differences in this stage: either the tumor measures over 5 centimeters across; or the tumor is bigger than 2 centimeters across but smaller than 5 centimeters across.
Breast Cancer Stages – Advanced
Breast cancer stages 3 and higher are considered to be the late or advanced stages of the disease. All late-stage breast cancers involve a certain degree of spreading. Similar to stage 2 breast cancer, stage 3 breast cancer is divided into 3 additional stages.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 3A or Locally Advanced Stage
With stage 3A breast cancer, the tumor has grown to over 5 centimeters across and has invaded the underarm lymph nodes. This stage can also indicate a tumor of any size with the lymph nodes being cancerous and adhering to other lymph nodes or nearby tissue.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 3B
When breast cancer reaches stage 3B, it has spread into the chest wall, to the internal mammary lymph nodes or to the skin.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 3C
Stage 3C breast cancer involves any size tumor that has further than the local region of the body and includes additional invasion of the lymph nodes.
Breast Cancer Stages – Stage 4
Stage 4 is the latest stage of breast cancer, and the tumor can be of any size. At this point in the disease, the cancer has spread to areas of the body that are further away from the breast, including the bones, brain, distant lymph nodes, liver and lungs.