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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Diagnosis > Staging of Breast Cancer


Staging of Breast Cancer



Prognostic Factors
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Breast Cancer 101 (Interactive Multimedia) - Introduction to Types and Staging
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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

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

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)

Updated 02/05/14


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