Cancer stages

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) created a way to determine how much cancer is in your body, where it is located, and what subtype of cancer you have. This is called staging. Based on testing, your cancer will be assigned a stage. Staging is needed to make treatment decisions.

Cancer staging is often done twice.

  • Clinical stage (c) is the rating given before any treatment. It is based on a physical exam, biopsy, and imaging
  • Pathologic stage (p) or surgical stage is determined by examining tissue removed during an operation

TNM scores

The tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) system is used to stage breast cancer. In this system, the letters T, N, and M describe different areas of cancer growth. Based on cancer test results, your doctor will assign a score or number to each letter. The higher the number, the larger the tumor or the more cancer has spread. These scores will be combined to assign cancer a stage. A TNM example might look like this: T2, N1, M1.

  • T (tumor) – Size of the main (primary) tumor
  • N (node) – If cancer has spread to nearby (regional) lymph nodes
  • M (metastasis) – If cancer has spread to distant parts of the body or metastasized

Numbered stages

Number stages range from stage 1 to stage 4, with 4 being the most advanced. Doctors write these stages as stage I, stage II, stage III, and stage IV.

Stage 0 is noninvasive
Noninvasive breast cancer is rated stage 0. DCIS is found only in the ducts (Tis). It has not spread to the surrounding breast tissue, lymph nodes (N0) or distant sites (M0).

Stages 1, 2, and 3 are invasive
Invasive breast cancer is rated stage 1, 2, or 3. It has grown outside the ducts, lobules, or breast skin. Cancer might be in the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage 4 is metastatic
In stage 4 breast cancer, cancer has spread to distant sites. Your first diagnosis can be stage 4 metastatic breast cancer or it can develop from earlier stages.

Breast CancerSecond Opinion


Breast Cancer Articles

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Alternative Treatment Options

Breast cancer comes in many forms, the most serious being breast cancer that develops after the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. The different types of treatment options available for locally and aggressively advanced breast cancer are: radiation therapy, surgical treatments and hormonal therapy. Most doctors will recommend this treatment all women […]

Breast Cancer

Early Stage Breast Cancer Detection

Health awareness about cancer on women all over the world is surprised to know that one out of 10 women suffers from breast cancer in the US. But is the fact that breast cancer can be cured, if it found at early stages, just like other cancers. People know that suffering from cancer it can be a […]

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer is still unknown disease until this day, despite the fact that cancer affects nearly ten percent of women over the age of forty years around the world. Cause this killer cancer is not known even after decades of research. So it is not known why some women have a higher chance to get […]