Doctors have started to use the staging system in order to determine the effect of certain different factors and in order to help them organize the procedure necessary. The main reasons are to understand the outcome of the disease, to guide the entire treatment process, as well as providing a way to describe the extent of breast cancer. Overall there are four or five stages that doctors use.
Stage 0 is the first stage which is used to describe the type of breast cancer. In this stage there is no treatment since there is no actual evidence of cancer cells breaking out or invading the surrounding tissues.
Stage I is used to describe the invasive breast cancers, which may break into surrounding breast tissue. The tumor may measure up to a total of 2 centimeters and there may be no lymph nodes involved.
Stage II is categorized into two, IIA and IIB. Stage IIA is the description that there is no tumor that can be found, but cancer cells are found in lymph nodes. It can also mean that there is a tumor that measures 2 centimeters which has spread to the lymph nodes. It can also mean that the tumor has grown, but is not bigger than a total of 5 centimeters and has not yet spread into the lymph nodes. Stage IIB is the description used for when the tumor has grown to 5 centimeters and has spread into the lymph nodes, or the tumor has become larger than 5 centimeters but has not yet spread into the lymph nodes.
Stage III is the description which is divided into three categories of IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC. Stage III overall deals with cancer being clumped or sticking to other structures including the lymph nodes, the size of the tumor spreading throughout the chest wall, the cancer entering below the collarbone, and even into the breastbones.
Stage IV is the last and final description that doctors may use to inform the patient that the cancer has spread throughout the organs of the body which include the brain, liver, bone, and usually the lungs.