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Determining Breast Cancer Stages at Dignity Health Southern California


Breast cancer stages indicate the extent or severity of the cancer. The higher the number, the more extensive the disease. Breast cancer has five stages, which are descripted with standard (0, 1, 2 …) or roman (0, I, II …) numerals. 

At Dignity Health Southern California hospitals, our doctors and staff are committed to meeting the unique needs of each patient and their family. We offer world-class care and breakthrough treatments through every step of the journey. No matter your breast cancer stage in Southern California, you can Find a Doctor who will treat you with the dignity and compassion you deserve. We offer our cancer care services at: 

Stage 0 Breast Cancer

Stage 0 is the earliest form of breast cancer. It is called noninvasive breast cancer, or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This means cancer is present in the milk ducts, but hasn’t spread anywhere else.

Treatment typically involves surgery followed by radiation or hormone therapy. 

Stage 1 Breast Cancer (Stage I) 

Stage 1 is early invasive breast cancer — it has spread to nearby tissues, but is still small. Surgery and radiation are the first line of treatment. Your doctor may recommend targeted therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. 

Stage 2 Breast Cancer (Stage II)

Stage 2 is also early invasive breast cancer, but it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or is larger than stage 1. Treatment options are similar to stage 1. If the tumor is large, treatment with targeted therapies, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy may help shrink the tumor before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy). In this case, breast-conserving lumpectomy may be an option instead of full mastectomy.

Stage 3 Breast Cancer (Stage III)

In stage 3 breast cancer, the tumor is locally advanced. Cancer has spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes, but has not spread to distant parts of the body. Treatment usually starts with neoadjuvant therapy and surgical mastectomy. Immune-targeted therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment follows surgery.

Stage 4 Breast Cancer (Stage IV)

Stage 4 is also called metastatic breast cancer. The cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs and places in the body. Due to the extent of the cancer, surgery is not an option in most cases. At this stage, the goals of treatment are to ease symptoms, shrink tumors, and lengthen life. 

Breast cancer stages help you and your doctor decide on what treatment plan is right for you. But your personal preferences and values matter, too. The right decision for you may be different than someone else who has the same stage breast cancer. Your doctor will tell you about the benefits and risks of each treatment, and how they may affect your lifestyle and overall health. 

Dignity Health offers personal care for all breast cancer stages in Southern California. Our hospitals are located in Long Beach, Northridge, Downtown LA, Glendale, and San Bernardino, with urgent care in Fontana and Highland.