Once diagnosed with breast cancer, they might want to know what stage it is. Knowing the stage helps the patient as well as the doctors to understand what lies ahead and make treatment decisions. The stages of breast cancer are denoted using the numbers 0 and I, II, III, or IV in Roman numerals (often followed by A, B, or C). The higher the number, indicates the cancer has advanced and that the patient is towards the later stages.

Stage 0

The malignancy was discovered early on. It began in the milk glands or breast ducts and has remained there. In situ, which means “in its original location,” is a phrase you’re likely to hear or see.

Stage I

Breast cancer is referred to as invasive when it has broken free and begun attacking healthy tissue at this stage.

Stage 1A

This stage indicates that cancer has spread to the fatty tissue of the breast. It’s possible that the tumor is no bigger than a shelled peanut, or that there is no tumor at all.

Stage IB

In stage IB, cancer cells have been discovered in a few lymph nodes, but only in trace levels.

Stage II

When cancer has progressed to the second stage, which means it has grown, spread, or both.

Stage IIA

This stage indicates that the breast tumor, if present, is still tiny. It’s possible that there’s no cancer in the lymph nodes, or that it’s spread to three or more.

Stage IIB

A stage IIB breast tumor is larger, ranging in size from a walnut to a lime. It could be in one or more lymph nodes.

Stage III

Cancer has not progressed to the bones or organs, but it is advanced and more difficult to treat.

Stage IIIA

This stage indicates that cancer has been discovered in up to nine lymph nodes that go from your underarm to your collarbone in a chain. Alternatively, it may have spread to or swollen the lymph nodes deep within your breast. There is a huge tumor in the breast in some cases, yet there is no tumor in others.

Stage IIIB

Even if the tumor hasn’t migrated to the lymph nodes, IIIB indicates that it has grown into the chest wall or skin around your breast.

Stage IIIC

Stage IIIC indicates that cancer has spread above or below the collarbone or has been discovered in 10 or more lymph nodes.

Stage IV

Breast cancer cells have moved far out from the breast and the lymph nodes surrounding it in Stage IV. The bones, lungs, liver, and brain are the most common sites. The term “metastatic” refers to the fact that cancer has moved beyond the area of the body where it was first discovered.

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