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Accurate Determination of Breast Cancer Stages

Breast cancer staging helps Dignity Health doctors understand the degree and scope of the disease in the body. The stage at diagnosis also helps determine your treatment options and prognosis. Higher staging numbers denote a more extensive condition. Lower stage breast cancers are more likely to respond well to treatment. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, Dignity Health oncologists and other breast cancer experts are available to care for your personal, mental, and spiritual needs. Use our online tool to Find a Doctor today to receive personal care any stage of breast cancer in the Bay Area.

Determining Breast Cancer Stages

Doctors use imaging exams, biopsy results, and blood tests to stage breast cancer. The stage depends on:

  • The size of the cancer
  • If cancer cells are in your lymph nodes
  • Whether the cancer is noninvasive or invasive
  • If the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs

At Dignity Health, we offer a variety of services at Dominican Hospital to help our oncologists stage breast cancer, including:

  • Breast ultrasound and automated breast ultrasound (ABUS)
  • Screening and diagnostic mammograms
  • Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy

Stage 0 Breast Cancer

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or noninvasive breast cancer. This means the cancer cells are confined to the milk ducts and have not spread. This stage is commonly treated using surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy.

Stage 1 Breast Cancer (Stage I)

Early invasive breast cancer. The tumor is small, but cancer has started growing into other breast tissues. Treatment usually begins with surgery and radiation. Doctors commonly recommend targeted therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Stage 2 Breast Cancer (Stage II)

Early, more invasive breast cancer. Cancer has spread to local lymph nodes or the tumor is larger than stage 1. Treatment is similar to stage 1. Targeted therapies, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy may be used first to shrink the tumor before surgery. It can make breast-conserving surgery an option for some women instead of full breast removal (mastectomy).

Stage 3 Breast Cancer (Stage III)

Locally advanced breast cancer. Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and other tissues, but not distant body sites. Neoadjuvant therapy and mastectomy are the first line of treatment. Immune-targeted therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy typically follow surgery.

Stage 4 Breast Cancer (Stage IV)

Metastatic breast cancer. Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, liver, bones, or lungs. Surgery is not an option in most cases. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms, shrink tumors, and extend life.

Breast cancer stage plays a significant role in determining your treatment decisions, but at Dignity Health we understand that your personal goals and values are important, too. Talk to your doctor about how each treatment will affect your lifestyle along with its benefits and risks.