Stages of Breast Cancer
Your doctor uses different tests to learn the stage of your cancer. The stage describes how much cancer there is in your body. It is based on these facts.
Size of the tumor
Whether your lymph nodes are involved and, if so, how many
Whether the cancer has spread beyond the tumor where it started
Cancer cells can break away from the main tumor and start growing in other parts of the body. With breast cancer, common places for it to spread are to the lymph nodes under the arm or to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, brain, or lungs. When cancer spreads, it's called metastasis. Although the cancer has spread to another part of the body, it's not considered a new cancer. For instance, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, it's not considered bone cancer. It's called metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breasts is often called early-stage breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is often called advanced-stage breast cancer.
The doctor also needs to know the grade of the cancer. The grade measures what the cells look like and how fast they may grow or spread to other organs.
The stage and grade of your breast cancer affects your options for treatment. Ask your doctor to describe your stage and grade so that you understand what it means for you and your treatment options.