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Tests and staging of Breast Cancer

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Updated: Monday, May 17,2010, 8:47:43 PM
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Tests and staging

If an abnormal area shows up on your mammogram, you may need to have more x-rays. You also may need a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if cancer is present. In a biopsy, a sample of tissue can be taken for examination under a microscope, in order to determine if there is any cancer present. NCI says imaging techniques play an important role in biopsy. One type of needle biopsy, the stereotactic-guided biopsy, uses a computer and scanning devices to pinpoint the precise location of the abnormal area. A needle is then inserted into the breast and a tissue sample is obtained.

If breast cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. The process used to find out whether the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body is called "staging." The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan the best treatment. The following stages are used for breast cancer, according to NCI:

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      Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)

      There are 2 types of breast carcinoma in situ:
          o Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a very early breast cancer that may develop into an invasive type of breast cancer (cancer that has spread from the duct into surrounding tissues).
          o Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is not cancer, but rather a marker or indicator that identifies a woman as having an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer (cancer that has spread into surrounding tissues). It is common for both breasts to be affected.
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      Stage I

      In stage I, the cancer is no larger than 2 centimeters (about 1 inch) and has not spread outside the breast.
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      Stage IIA

      In stage IIA, the cancer is either:
          o no larger than 2 centimeters (about 1 inch) but has spread to the axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes under the arm); or
          o between 2 and 5 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes
    * Stage IIB In stage IIB, the cancer is either:
          o between 2 and 5 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes under the arm); or
          o larger than 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes
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      Stage IIIA

      In stage IIIA, the cancer is either:
          o smaller than 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes under the arm), and the lymph nodes are attached to each other or to other structures; or
          o larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes and the lymph nodes may be attached to each other or to other structures
    *

      Stage IIIB

      In stage IIIB, the cancer has either:
          o spread to tissues near the breast (the skin or chest wall, including the ribs and muscles in the chest); or
          o spread to lymph nodes inside the chest wall along the breastbone
    *

      Stage IV

      In stage IV, the cancer has either:
          o spread to other organs of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver, or brain;
          o spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, near the collarbone

Tags: Cancer Breast

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