On confirmation of the breast cancer from biopsy report, the doctors go through an extensive study about the extent or the stage of the cancer that will help to adopt the right type of treatment best suitable for the patient. Whether the cancer is localized or has spread to other parts of the body can be determined by staging that involves different types of screening including the blood test.
Bone scan is done by entering a small amount of radioactive substance into the blood vessel which gets collected in the bones, and the pictures taken confirm the spread of cancer to the bones.
CT scan of the breast cancer is done by taking pictures of the affected area through the X-rays to study whether the cancer has affected the lungs and liver.
Lymph node biopsy is done by inserting radioactive blue dye through a needle near the tumor or the nipple and checked for the cancerous lymphatic cells.
The different stages of breast cancer include
Stage 0 – This stage can be also termed as Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which indicates that the abnormal cells of the breast duct have not spread outside or invaded other local tissues. This stage cannot be termed cancerous but if untreated can turn into breast cancer.
Stage I indicates the earliest stage of breast cancer where the tumor is not more than 2 centimeters and the cancerous cells have affected only the breast tissue not spreading beyond.
Stage II – This may include features –
1. The tumor size not more than 2 centimeters but the cancer has affected the under arm lymph nodes or the cancer is localized.
2. The tumor size is of 2-5 centimeter and the cancer affecting the underarm lymph nodes.
Stage III comprises of three stages like Stage IIIA, IIIB and IIIC.
In Stage IIIA tumor is 5centimeters length across and the cancer has spread to the under arm lymph nodes. The cancer may spread to the single or attached lymph nodes under the arm and it may also affect the lymph nodes behind the breast bone.
In Stage IIIB the tumor may be of any size that grows along the chest wall or on the breast skin forming lumps and nodules. The under arm lymph nodes and the lymph nodes behind the breast bone may also be affected.
In this stage the inflammatory breast cancer may also occur with the breast becoming red and swollen.
In Stage IIIC the tumor may be of any size with the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes of under arm, behind the breast bone and also including the lymphatic nodes of the collarbone.
Stage IV or the metastatic change indicates the spread of the breast cancer to other parts of the body like liver and bones.