The Different Stages of Breast Cancer


Sarah Lewis, PharmD

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Doctor and patient

After a breast cancer diagnosis, oncologists and breast surgeons stage the cancer. Breast cancer staging describes the extent of cancer in the body. Accurate staging involves multiple factors. Doctors look at the size of the tumor, whether cancer cells have spread the lymph nodes under the arm, and whether cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. 

The breast cancer stage at diagnosis determines prognosis and guides treatment. Generally, lower stages have better prognoses and survival rates than higher stages. In fact, the 5-year survival is 98% at the earliest stage, when cancer is small and confined to the breast. Here’s a summary of the stages:

Stage 0 

Stage 0 is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer and is noninvasive: cancer cells are growing inside the milk ducts, but remain in place (in situ).

Revolutionary treatments have increased the life expectancy rates for breast cancer patients. Watch this video for more breast cancer facts.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 12, 2017

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