December 29, 2006, Newsletter Issue #46: How Doctors Stage Breast Cancer

Tip of the Week

Not all breast cancer treatments are created equal. The treatment that is right for you depends on a number of things, and breast cancer staging can help determine this. If you are trying to learn information about breast cancer diagnosis, it recommended that you read about the different stages of breast cancer. Generally all cancers are stage based on the TNM system, in which T stands for the tumor size, N stands for lymph node involvement, and M stands for metastasis or the level of cancer invasion.

Breast cancer staging is a way to classify how advanced a particular incidence of breast cancer is. Staging helps doctors put a name to the cancer, such as how far along it is, how aggressive it is, and how likely it is to respond to different treatments.

Breast cancers are usually divided into one of several stages, from zero to four. Higher stages mean more advanced cancers. Staging is a scientific tool and not entirely an indication of whether you will live or die. It can help guide doctors in how they will treat you. Whether your cancer is a stage 0 (carcinoma in situ) or a stage 4 (spread to distant organs), the goal is the same: treat it so you can go on with your life.

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