It’s October, which means it’s breast cancer awareness month. With the celebrations of this month, we always like to highlight characteristics about this devastating disease that affects millions of people. An important fact to know about breast cancer is to understand the stages of breast cancer. There are four stages, and each stage of breast cancer has a different meaning for the patient.


The stages of cancer are based on 4 different characteristics, including: the size of the cancer, whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive, whether cancer is in the lymph nodes, and if the cancer has spread to parts of the body other than the breast.


Stage 1: 

This stage begins by invasive cancer cells breaking through normal breast tissue. There are two subcategories of stage 1 called 1A and 1B. 1A is categorized as the tumor being only 2 cm, and the tumor being isolated to only the breast. Stage 1B encompasses two scenarios, the first being that there is no tumor, just cancerous cells around the breast, and the second that there is a tumor in the breast and cancer cells have been found in the lymph nodes of the breast.


Stage 2:


Stage 2 of breast cancer has two subcategories, 2A and 2B. Subcategory 2A can be defined as either the tumor being found in the breast, being larger than 2 cm, and having already spread to the lymph nodes, or the tumor being smaller than 2 cm and having already spread to the auxiliary lymph nodes. 2B is when the tumor is larger than 5 cm but has not spread to the lymph nodes, or has spread to just 1-3 lymph nodes near the breast bone. A common symptom shown in people with stage 2 breast cancer can be lumps found on the skin near the breast.


Stage 3:


Stage 3 can be divided into three subcategories, 3A, 3B, and 3C. 3A breast cancer is when the cancer can be found in 4 to 9 auxiliary lymph nodes, the tumor is larger than 5 cm, or if cancer cells can be found near the breast bone. 3B happens when the cancer is considered invasive and has spread to either the chest walls, up to 9 lymph nodes, and the breast bone. 3C is also treated as invasive and has spread to 10 auxiliary lymph nodes, and could be above or below the collarbone. Typical symptoms of stage 3 breast cancer are reddening of the breast skin and swollen breasts.


Stage 4:


Stage 4 breast cancer is when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, not just the surrounding breast areas. These distant areas can include the lungs, skin, bones, and brain.


Breast cancer is a terrible disease, but we feel hopeful every October when people come together to celebrate and create awareness for an amazing cause. Northeast Nebraska Imaging supports breast cancer awareness, and all the survivors, and people who have been affected by this terrible disease.