Breast Cancer Stages

x-ray image of breast cancer in a stageBreast cancer stages are used to indicate the extent to which a cancer has spread throughout a patient’s body. Physicians also use staging to help determine which treatments to use, as well as a patient’s prognosis. 

Most staging systems involve a numerical scale that ranges from zero to four. The higher the number, the larger and more invasive the cancer. Breast cancer stages are typically broken down as follows:

  • Stage 0 breast cancer refers to either ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). Both are highly treatable conditions in which the abnormal cells are only found in the milk ducts or lobes. 
  • Stage 1 breast cancer refers to small, local cancers that have not spread to any of the surrounding lymph nodes, or may have started to spread to a single lymph node. These cancers are often quite receptive to treatment.
  • Stage 2 breast cancer refers to slightly more extensive regional cancers that have spread to a few of the lymph nodes in the armpit. Most stage II cancers are still eligible for a wide range of treatment options and have a favorable prognosis.
  • Stage 3 breast cancer refers to regionally advanced cancers that have spread outside of the breast tissue (often to the chest wall or skin of the breast), but have not metastasized to other organs.
  • Stage 4 breast cancer refers to metastatic malignancies, in which the cancer has spread to other organs. Patients still benefit from treatment, although treatments are more commonly used to slow the cancer’s growth and minimize symptoms, and clinical trials are often recommended.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer innovative treatments for patients with all stages of breast cancer – even the later ones. For more information about our individualized treatment plans and evidence-based techniques, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary to meet with one of our breast cancer specialists.