Breast cancer stage helps plan your treatment and is the most important factor for prognosis. In general, the earlier the stage, the better the prognosis will be.
Types of breast cancer staging
There are two types of breast cancer staging:
- Pathologic staging
- Clinical staging
Pathologic staging (the standard way to stage breast cancer) is based on a pathologist’s study of the lymph nodes and tumor tissue removed during surgery.
Clinical staging includes results from a health care provider’s physical exam and tests like mammography. These may add to the pathologist’s findings, when needed.
TNM system of breast cancer staging
Although there are a few ways to classify stage, the most widely used is the TNM system (which stands for tumor, nodes and metastases). TNM takes into account:
- The size of the tumor (T)
- The number and location lymph nodes (N) with cancer
- Whether or not the cancer has spread to other areas of the body (metastasis) (M)