Breast Cancer Stages & Grading

When breast cancer is diagnosed doctors must determine the stage of the cancer so appropriate treatment can be given.

Both the location and size of the tumors are considered.

Staging can be determined in part by finding whether cancer cells:

  • - have spread out from the breast area to other parts of the body
  • - are found in the lymph nodes under the arms
  • - remain only in the breasts

When breast cancer is found (see breast cancer diagnosis), it may be classed as being in one of five stages.

Different staging systems may be used across treatment centers.

TMN Staging System

The TMN staging system is commonly used to determine the extent of breast cancer disease in a person.

The TMN staging system is used by doctors worldwide.

  • T (tumor) – what size is the tumor?
  • N (nodes) – has the cancer spread to the lymph nodes under the arms?
  • M (metastatic) – is the cancer metastatic/secondary?Has it spread to another part of the body? (e.g. lungs, liver or bone)?

Grading Breast Cancer

Observed under a microscope breast cancer cells can be graded on their appearance.

Grades are assigned on a scale of 1 to 3 & provide an indication as to how the cancer may develop.

Grade 1. Low Grade Tumors.

Cancer cells appear similar to the normal cells. Cells multiply at a reduced rate. There is less chance of the cells spreading to other parts of the body.

Grade 2. Intermediate Or Moderate Tumors

Cancer cells multiply at a faster rate and there is risk of cells spreading to other parts of the body.

Grade 3. High Grade Tumors.

The cancer cells look abnormal, multiply rapidly and there is great risk of them spreading to other parts of the body.