Invasive ductal carcinoma stages provide physicians with a uniform way to describe how far a patient’s cancer may have spread beyond its original location in a milk duct. This information can be helpful when evaluating treatment options, but it is not a prognostic indicator in and of itself. Many factors can influence a patient’s outcome, so the best source of information for understanding a breast cancer prognosis is always a physician who is familiar with the patient’s case.
In general, breast cancer stages are established based on three key variables: the size of a tumor, the extent of lymph node involvement and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. This information may be obtained through a combination of clinical examinations, imaging studies, blood tests, lymph node removal and tissue samples (biopsies). If, based on the initial test results, a physician believes that the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body, further testing may be ordered, such as a bone scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or liver function test.
Invasive ductal carcinoma is usually described through a numeric scale ranging from 1 (the earliest stage) to 4 (the most advanced stage). Specifically, the invasive ductal carcinoma stages are:
- Stage 1 – A breast tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters in diameter and the cancer has not spread beyond the breast.
- Stage 2 – A breast tumor measures 2 to 4 centimeters in diameter or cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes in the underarm area.
- Stage 3 – More extensive cancer is found, but it is confined to the breast, surrounding tissues and lymph nodes.
- Stage 4 – The breast cancer has metastasized to lymph nodes beyond the underarm area or to distant sites, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain.
In the Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty tumor board reviews each patient’s breast cancer staging during a weekly meeting. This unique approach provides our patients with the benefit of highly individualized treatment based on multiple expert opinions in a single location, where we also offer comprehensive screening, diagnostic and supportive care services without the need for referrals.