How Is Breast Cancer Staged?
How Is Breast Cancer Staged? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.
What do breast cancer patients need to know about staging? Expert Dr. Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy explains clinical staging and discusses common breast cancer genetic mutations.
Dr. Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy is the Section Chief of Breast Medical Oncology and the Director of the Medical Oncology Fellowship Program in Breast Cancer at The Ohio State College of Medicine. Learn more about this expert here.
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Dr. Ramasamy, how is breast cancer staged?
The breast cancer is usually staged by using couple of things. One is clinical staging. So, when you come in with the initial you feel a lump and you get a mammogram. So, we will stage you by understanding the size of your tumor in your breast as well as whether we are able to palpate your lymph nodes. Second, we, you know, the imaging. What we feel as a size is usually a little bit overestimated when we look at the mammograms or the MRIs that you have. And then we’ll see whether in the – in those imagings whether your lymph nodes are looking abnormal. So, we use these initially to do clinical staging. But then when we go to surgery, that’s when we do the correct pathological staging because now, we know exactly your tumor size. Then they do what’s called a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
We don’t need to take all the lymph nodes to stage your nodal status anymore. We just use this methodology in the surgery, in this – during surgery to just pick out those nodes that is draining your tumor back. And whether they’re positive or not. In general, as long as you don’t have a very locally advanced cancer, we don’t need to do staging scans to stage you for breast cancer. But in case you are unlucky enough to have cancer spread in those, and we do scans and you have cancer either in your bone or liver or lung, then that is a higher staging, and that’s what’s called the stage IV cancer.