The method used in the medical field to set
a standardized level of a woman’s breast cancer is called
“staging.” These stages (rated Stage 0, Stage
I, Stage II, Stage III, Stage IV) are utilized so there can
be a universal yardstick for delivering information about
a woman’s degree of cancer involvement; this helps greatly
in discussions among medical personnel when needing to relay
facts about her condition and treatment; and it also helps
the patient and her family.
Before a discussion of Stage 3 breast cancer (Stage III),
it is worthwhile to summarize the first three stages. Stage
0 means the cancer is small and has not spread. Stage I means
the tumor is 2 cm. or less in diameter and has not spread
to lymph nodes or another part of the body. Stage II is a
tumor that is either 2 to 5 cm. in diameter and has spread
into one to three lymph nodes or more than 5 cm. but has not
spread into lymph nodes; also in this stage, the tumor has
not spread to another part of the body.
Stage 3 breast cancer (Stage III) is divided into three levels:
Stage IIIA, Stage IIIB and Stage IIIC. In a discussion of
Stage 3 breast cancer (Stage III), one important fact to establish
at the start is -- this stage exhibits no spread of the cancer
to a distant part of the body (a metastasis). Also, a woman
diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, and with no metastasis,
is rated Stage III.
Stage IIIA denotes a tumor which is five cm. or smaller (T0-2)
and has spread to four to nine axillary lymph nodes or internal
mammary nodes (N2); or a tumor is five cm. and larger (T3)
and has spread into one to nine axillary or internal mammary
nodes (N1or N2).
Stage IIIB is a tumor that has enlarged (T4) into surrounding
tissues, like the chest wall or skin. It has either not spread
into lymph nodes (N0) or has spread into one to nine axillary
or internal mammary lymph nodes (N1 or N2).
Stage IIIC, the tumor can be of any size (T0-4). Here, the
distinctions deal with the spread of the cancer into the lymph
nodes. The cancer may have spread into ten or more axillary
lymph nodes; it may be in one or more infraclavicular, supraclavicular,
or internal mammary lymph nodes (N3). All involved lymph nodes
are on the same side of the body as the cancerous breast tumor.
Again, it is important to note that no cancer is detected
in a distant part of the body in Stage 3 breast cancer (Stage