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Classifying your breast cancer by stage helps predict your chance of cure and helps identify the best treatment options for your particular cancer.
After discovering that you have breast cancer, your doctor will decide what additional tests may be helpful to find out if the disease has spread outside the breast. Called breast cancer staging, this process provides information about the extent of the disease.
Your breast cancer stage helps your doctor determine which treatments are most likely to benefit you.
The stages of breast cancer are indicated using Roman numerals ranging from 0 to IV, with 0 indicating cancer that is noninvasive or contained within the milk ducts. Greater numerals indicate a more invasive cancer. By stage IV breast cancer, also called metastatic breast cancer, the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
The cancer staging system continues to evolve and is becoming more complex as doctors improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Your doctor determines your breast cancer stage by considering:
To gather information about your cancer, your doctor uses a variety of sources, including:
Additional imaging tests. Additional imaging can be used to look for breast cancer cells that have spread to other areas of your body. Not everyone with breast cancer needs these tests, though, so ask your doctor what's best for you.
Additional imaging tests include a bone scan, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).
Most people with a new diagnosis of breast cancer don't need all the diagnostic tests available. Your doctor will select the necessary tests based on your situation. Particularly if your cancer is small and hasn't spread to nearby lymph nodes, additional tests may offer little benefit, but lead to additional costs and carry a risk of complications.
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