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With advances in screening and imaging, most breast cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. Staging is used to understand what treatments would be most effective for an individual patient and to assess a patient’s prognosis. Imaging, cancer type, tumor size and lymph node status all are used to determine the stage of a cancer.

This is a brief review of the various stages of breast cancer. Final staging is not usually determined until breast cancer surgery is completed.

Stage 0 – Ductal Carcinoma in Situ

Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, develops in the milk-carrying ducts of the breast. The tumor cells are confined to the ducts of the breast at this stage, but they could become an invasive cancer if left untreated.

Stage I

The cancer cells have grown through the ducts and into the surrounding breast tissue. The tumor measures 2 centimeters or less in diameter and there has been no spread to lymph nodes.

Stage II

The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters and/or has spread to the axillary, or underarm, and lymph nodes.

Stage III

The tumor may be larger than 5 centimeters. It also may have spread to the surrounding skin or chest wall, and/or the underarm lymph nodes.

Stage IV

Regardless of the size of the tumor, the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body.

If you are trying to make sense of a breast cancer diagnosis and understand your treatment options, our specialists can help. Call 206-215-6400 to schedule a consultation.