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Breast cancer - stages

September 28, 2000

Breast cancer - stages



As with any cancer, early detection can allow for treatment before the disease spreads beyond the breast. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the more likely a patient is to defeat it.

Stage 0


The earliest form of breast cancer is Ductal carcinoma in situ. Cancerous cells are found within a duct but have not spread to the fatty tissue in the breast.

Survival rate: 98 percent.

Stage 1


Tumors are less than 2 centimeters (3/4 inches) across and don't appear to have spread beyond the breast.

Survival rate: 98 percent.

Stage 2


Tumors are larger than 2 centimeters (3/4 inches) across. They may or may not have spread to lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast. Lymph nodes in Stage 2 appear to float within the arm, unattached to one another or surrounding tissue.

Survival rate: 88 percent.

Stage 3


Tumors are either more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) or have spread to lymph nodes that have attached to one another or the surrounding tissue. Breast cancer is also in Stage 3 if it has spread to the skin, chest wall or internal mammary lymph nodes, which are beneath the breast and inside the chest.

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Stage 3 breast cancer patients show no signs that it has spread to distant organs, bones or lymph nodes not near the breast.

Survival rate: 67 percent.

Stage 4


The cancer spreads to distant organs, such as bones or lungs, or to lymph nodes not near the breast, such as those above the collarbone.

Survival rate: 14 percent.

- American Cancer Society

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