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Types and Stages of Breast Cancer


Below are some of the more common types of breast cancer. This is not an inclusive list. For more information on breast cancer please visit

  1. Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) is a very treatable early stage cancer where the damaged cells are in the lining of the breast milk duct but have not spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
  2. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) originates in the milk ducts then spreads to the surrounding fatty tissue. Once these cancer cells break through the cell walls, they can remain near the milk duct or could enter the blood stream and metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. This is the most common type of breast cancer in women, and the type that commonly affects men. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, or IDC, makes up 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses.
  3. Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is an aggressive cancer that spreads to the skin and lymph vessels of the breast. Because it doesn’t create lumps, early detection is more difficult. The skin surrounding the breast usually becomes red, swollen, and itchy similar to general inflammation symptoms. This is a rare type of breast cancer making up 1% of cancer diagnoses.


Determining the stage of breast cancer helps the physician decide the best course of treatment. Stages are determined based on the size of the tumor, the number of lymph nodes affected, and if the cancer has spread to other organs. The lower numbered stages represent the earlier detected breast cancers and the ones that are located closer to the point of origin in the milk ducts.

Stage 0

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) and Paget disease of the nipple are all stage 0 breast cancers. In situ actually means, “in the original place.” Stage 0 breast cancers are highly treatable because they have not spread outside the milk duct walls. Self-examinations and yearly mammograms help detect stage 0 breast cancers before it spreads.

Stage I

Stage 1 cancer is still contained to the area where the cancer develops and it categorized by the size of the tumor. A stage 1 tumor is classified as 2 centimeters or smaller. Stage 1 breast cancers can also be classified by lymph nodes that have cancer evidence with clusters between .2mm and 2.0 mm

Stage II

Stage II breast cancer is very treatable and has not spread to other parts of the body. It is still contained in the breast or the lymph nodes near the breast. Stage II can be further broken down into Stage II A and Stage II B depending on the size of the tumor and if it is has spread into the lymph nodes. Most stage II tumors are classified as 2cm-5cm. However, stage IIA is classified as a tumor that can be less than 2cm, but is present in the nearby lymph nodes. For more detailed information regarding breast stage classification, please visit

Stage III

Stage III breast cancer has spread outside the breast area and lymph nodes and has invaded the muscle but no other organs in the body. As in stage II, this stage is broken down into further categories of Stage IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC. Similar to the other stages, stage III classifications depend on the size of the tumor and how far the cancer cells have spread to the surrounding area and the number of lymph nodes affected. Tumors are larger than 5cm or have spread to 4-9 nearby lymph nodes to be classified as Stage III.

Stage IV

Stage IV breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer, has spread to other areas and organs in the body (most often in the bones, lungs, liver, or brain). Most patients are diagnosed with metastatic cancer after they have completed treatment for earlier diagnosed breast cancer. Although the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it is still classified and treated as breast cancer. While stage IV breast cancer is not curable, recent advances in maintenance drug therapy have extended the life of many stage IV cancer patients.