Stages of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a cancer that affects the tissues of the breast. Researchers estimate that 1 in 8 women would develop breast cancer in their lifetime. In this section we would learn what are the types of breast cancer and stages of breast cancer.

breast cancer stagesTypes and stages of breast cancer

Types of Breast Cancer:

  • Ductal carcinoma: Ductal carcinoma is a breast cancer that affects the ducts that transport milk from the mammary glands to the nipples. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer.
  • Lobular carcinoma: Lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that affects the lobules of the breast. Lobules are the glands that produce milk
  • Invasive or Non invasive Breast Cancer: Invasive breast cancer is a condition where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Non invasive breast cancer is a condition where the cancer has not spread, but if left untreated it can spread to other parts.
  • Estrogen receptor-positive cancer: Breast cancers can be sensitive to the hormone estrogen, or in other words estrogen helps the breast cancer tumour to propagate. These breast cancers have estrogen receptors on the surface of their cells and are called estrogen receptor-positive cancer or ER-positive cancer.
  • HER2-positive breast cancer: HER2-positive breast cancer is a cancer where the cancer is helped by the HER2 gene to grow. Research shows that women with HER2-positive breast cancer have a higher risk of relapse of breast cancer.

Breast Cancers are classified by:

  • Properties of tumors
  • Size of the tumor.
  • Receiver status (type of hormone receptors in breast cancer cells): cells from breast cancer are classified as estrogen receptor positive receive and progesterone negative, positive or negative.
  • The estrogen receptor is a protein in breast cancer cells that bind to estrogen. About half of patients with breast cancer have this protein, called estrogen receptor positive (ER). Patients who lack this protein are classified as estrogen receptor negative (ER-).
  • Nodal status – the presence or absence of cancer cells in the glands or lymph nodes, if so, how many and which nodes.
  • Metastasis – the spread of cancer to other tissues.

Stages of Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer – Stage 0

  • In situ (“in place”) of the disease in which cancer cells are in their original location in normal breast tissue. Known as ductal carcinoma in situ or (carcinoma in situ ductoral) or lobules carcinoma in situ (LCI), depending on the type of cells involved and the location is a pre-cancerous condition, and only a small percentage of tumors in carcinoma ductal progress become invasive cancer.
  • There is some disagreement in the medical community about how best to treat DCIS. The options include removal of the tumor (lumpectomy) and the breast and surrounding tissue is irradiated (radiation) or the entire breast (mastectomy).

Breast Cancer – Stage 1

  • Tumors 2 cm or smaller in size
  • No involvement of lymph nodes


  • In general, the tumor surgically removed (lumpectomy) and the breast and surrounding tissue is irradiated (radiation). Radiation kills cancer cells that are left.
  • Additional chemotherapy or hormone therapy may be considered depending on the clinical situation.

Breast Cancer – Stage 2

  • Tumors are more than 2 cm but not more than 5 cm in size.
  • Lymph nodes may be involved (meaning that the tumor has spread from the breast through the lymphatic system to lymph nodes along the path lymphatics located in the armpit).


  • The tumor (lumpectomy) or the entire breast (mastectomy) and lymph nodes are surgically removed.
  • Radiation is used if a lumpectomy was performed.
  • Chemotherapy is usually given to destroy any cancer cells that have spread beyond the breast.
  • Hormone therapy can be used generally for postmenopausal women with ER-positive.

Breast Cancer – Stage 3

  • Tumors are more than 5 cm with lymph node involvement.


  • Removal of the entire breast (mastectomy) and lymph nodes.
  • Chemotherapy can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells in the breast or elsewhere in the body.
  • Hormone therapy can be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells in the breast or elsewhere in the body of ER-positive.

Breast Cancer – Stage 4

  • • Advanced cancer where cancer cells have spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body, most commonly in the lungs, brain, bone or liver.


  • The goal is to stabilize the disease.
  • The tumor is removed surgically possible, especially in cases where the symptoms must be relieved.
  • Systemic therapy (treatment that goes throughout the body) can be used.
  • Hormone therapy is used for ER-positive tumors and is sometimes used for ER-negative, although menopausal status of the patient and the progressive form of cancer affecting the treatment decision.
  • Tumors can be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Life expectancy for Breast CancerExpectation

Best indicator is clinical stage of breast cancer for prognosis in addition to some other factors. Five-year survival rates for individuals with breast cancer who receive appropriate treatment are approximately:

  • 95% for stage 0
  • 88% for stage I
  • 66% for stage II
  • 36% for stage III
  • 7% for stage IV
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