Knowing the different stages of breast cancer


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Whether it's during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October or any other time in the year, it's important for women to know the different stages of breast cancer.

The stages are determined by the size of the tumor and whether it's spread to other areas of the body.   

Dr. Juliana Rosenblat, a breast radiologist at Memorial Cancer Institute, outlined the differences.    

"Stage 0 cancer is called non-invasive cancer and those are usually very treatable, depending on the size of the cancer," Rosenblat said. "It means it hasn't invaded the cells below its location."  

Often, stage 0 breast cancer is difficult to detect. It's considered a precancerous condition that requires closer observation.  

By contrast, stage 1 to 4 breast cancer is described as invasive, which means cancerous cells could spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph nodes.

"The first place breast cancer usually goes, if it leaves the breast, is an axillary lymph node," Rosenblat said.    

•    In stage 1 breast cancer, the tumor can measure up to 2 centimeters and no lymph nodes are involved. 
•    In stage 2 breast cancer, the tumor measures between 2 to 5 centimeters. At this stage, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. 
•    In stage 3 breast cancer, the tumor is more than two centimeters in diameter, the cancer is extensive in the underarm lymph nodes or may have spread to other tissues near the breast.  

"Stage 4 cancer is when it leaves the realm of the breast," Rosenblat said.  

At this stage, according to Rosenblat, the cancer can spread to the brain, the liver, the lungs or the bones, which are the most typical places breast cancer goes.

It's why most doctors agree that a woman should begin her yearly mammogram at age 40.  

For more information on breast cancer symptoms, stages and treatment options, visit Memorial Cancer Institute's website.

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