There are many different types of breast cancer as well as different stages of breast cancer. The type and stage of breast cancer you have will determine the type of treatment you should receive. Possessing a full understanding of the type and stage of breast cancer you have will allow you to make the most optimal treatment choices for a smooth recovery.
Staging and grading usually happens after your breast tumour has been removed by surgery, as a pathologist will need to test the tissue in a laboratory and examine it under a microscope. The grade of a tumour indicates what the cells look like and gives an idea of how quickly the cancer may grow and spread. Tumours are graded between 1 and 3.
The stage of the cancer helps you and your doctor:. Breast cancer stage is usually expressed as a number on a scale of 0 through IV — with stage 0 describing non-invasive cancers that remain within their original location and stage IV describing invasive cancers that have spread outside the breast to other parts of the body. Your pathology report will include information that is used to calculate the stage of the breast cancer — that is, whether it is limited to one area in the breast, or it has spread to healthy tissues inside the breast or to other parts of the body. Your doctor will begin to determine this during surgery to remove the cancer and look at one or more of the underarm lymph nodes, which is where breast cancer tends to travel first.
Classifying your breast cancer by stage helps predict your chance of cure and helps identify the best treatment options for your particular cancer. After discovering that you have breast cancer, your doctor will decide what additional tests may be helpful to find out if the disease has spread outside the breast. Called breast cancer staging, this process provides information about the extent of the disease.
Staging describes or classifies a cancer based on how much cancer there is in the body and where it is when first diagnosed. This is often called the extent of cancer. Information from tests is used to find out the size of the tumour, what part of the breast has cancer, whether the cancer has spread from where it first started and where the cancer has spread.
Stage 2 means the breast cancer is growing, but it is still contained in the breast or growth has only extended to the nearby lymph nodes. This stage is divided into groups: Stage 2A and Stage 2B. The difference is determined by the size of the tumor and whether the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. No actual tumor is associated with the cancerous cells and less than four auxillary lymph nodes have cancer cells present.