It takes a long time for the diseases to originate, develop and reach a full blown stage. Researchers have found that it may take 8 to 10 years for the breast cancer to grow from a size of a tiny grain to a pea. During thisgrowth process, breast cancer goes through various stages.
Stages of breast cancer are classified as per the extent of spread in the body. The staging is important as it enables the breast cancer specialist to choose the right treatment strategy.
The tests and scans done in order to diagnose the cancer give some information about the progress of the disease.
Factors Considered for Staging
Breast cancer staging is done on the basis of factors such as the location of the tumour, size and number of tumours, number of lymph nodes affected and whether or not the cancer has invaded to other body organs (metastasis).
System of Staging
The system which is most commonly used to describe the stages of breast cancer is the TNM system, which is globally accepted.
- It takes into account the tumour size and spread (T)
- Whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes (N), and
- Whether it has spread to distant organs (M, for metastasis)
Numbers after the T, N, and M give information about the cancer.
All of this information is then put together in a process which is known as stage grouping.
Stage 0 & 1:
These represent early stages of breast cancer. At breast cancer stage 0 and 1, the cancer cells are localized and confined to a limited area. This stage breast cancer is mostly curable with timely and accurate treatment.
Stage 2 and Stage 2A:
Breast cancer stage 2 is also an early stage cancer, however, there is evidence that the cancer has begun to grow. It is still confined to the breast area and is generally curable.
Breast cancer stage 3 is considered advanced cancer with evidence of cancer invading surrounding tissues near the breast.
Breast cancer Stage 4 indicates that cancer has spread from the breast to the other parts of the body.
Breast cancer is diagnosed using various techniques and tools like mammography, sono-mammogram (ultrasound), MRI, biopsy and lab tests. Based on the results of the tests, a stage is assigned and the treatment is initiated.
Breast cancer deaths can be prevented by early detection of the disease. Taking regular health checkups will help in picking early stage cancers which can be treated successfully.