Breast Cancer Staging: An Expert Explains
Breast Cancer Staging: An Expert Explains from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.
What do breast cancer patients need to know about staging? Expert Dr. Demetria Smith-Graziani explains breast cancer staging, parts of the body that can be involved, and recommended questions for patients to ask their doctor.
Demetria Smith-Graziani, MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Smith-Graziani.
“…ask what stage your breast cancer is, ask if it is potentially curable and also ask what the risk is of your breast cancer coming back after it’s treated.”
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Dr. Smith, a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, it is overwhelming. Can you speak to staging, and more specifically, what is early breast cancer, or EBC?
Dr. Demetria Smith-Graziani:
Sure. So we assign breast cancer a stage from zero to IV, and that’s based on the size of the cancer itself and whether that cancer has spread to other parts of the body, as well as other factors like how the cells look under the microscope and what proteins we see in the cancer or cells. So we consider early stage breast cancer to be any stage that is lower than stage IV, so to zero through IV, stage zero breast cancer is also called DCIS which stands for ductal carcinoma in situ, and that means that the cancer cells are just in the milk ducts and have not spread beyond those milk ducts.
Stage I, II and III, cancers are spread beyond the milk ducts to the surrounding breast tissue, and they may have also spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or in the chest, and the higher stage breast cancer you have, the higher that number, the higher the risk is of your breast cancer coming back after the treatment is completed.
Now, stage IV breast cancer is cancer that started in the breast but has spread to other distant organs like the lungs or the liver or the bone, we also call this metastatic breast cancer, stage IV breast cancer, unfortunately, can’t be cured, but we can still treat it. So my activation tip for patients is ask what stage your breast cancer is, ask if it is potentially curable and also ask what the risk is of your breast cancer coming back after it’s treated.