Breast Cancer Staging

It is ESSENTIAL to know the stage of your breast cancer because it helps your doctors to evaluate and plan your treatment options.

How breast cancer is staged

Staging depends on where the cancer starts and how much of the cancer has spread out of the breast to the rest of the body. The most commonly used staging system is based on the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system for both clinical (cTNM) and pathological (pTNM) findings.

  • The clinical staging is done before the surgery using results based on the clinical assessment, imaging tests (such as mammogram, ultrasound, CT, MRI or PET scans) and a breast biopsy.
  • The pathological staging is done after the surgery and is based on the results of the cell type, cancer grade, number of lymph node involvement and immunohistochemistry analysis

Click to view PMCC video on Cancer Staging

These are the 7 key pieces of information used for staging

  • Size of tumour (T)
  • Spread of lymph nodes (N)
  • Spread to other part of the body (M)
  • Progesterone Receptor (PR) status
  • Estrogen Receptor (ER) status (ER+ suggests it may respond to hormone therapy)
  • HER-2 status (excess HER-2 protein suggests a more aggressive cancer)
  • Cancer grade (higher grades suggest a more aggressive cancer)

Summary of the TNM staging

T: T1-T4, depending on the size and/or extent of the primary tumour

N: N1-3 depending whether the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes

M: M0-1 depending on whether the cancer has spread to rest of the body

TT0NO evidence of tumour
 T1Size is less than 2 cm
 T2Size is 2 to less than 5 cm
 T3Size is 5 cm or larger
 T4Cancer involve skin or chest wall
NN0Has NOT spread to lymph nodes
 N1Spread to 1-3 lymph nodes
 N2Spread to 4-9 lymph nodes
 N3Spread to 10 or more lymph nodes
MM0NO distant spread
 M1Spread to distant organs

Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?