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Breast Cancer Tumor Size Chart

Life Expectancy By Stage

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Even when divided by stage, its hard to determine life expectancy for someone with breast cancer because of the following:

  • There are many types of breast cancer, and they vary in their level of aggressiveness. Some have targeted treatment, while others dont.
  • Successful treatment may depend on age, other health problems, and treatments you choose.
  • Survival rates are estimates based on people diagnosed years ago. Treatment is advancing quickly, so you may have a better life expectancy than people diagnosed even five years ago.

Thats why you shouldnt take general statistics to heart. Your doctor can give you a better idea of what to expect based on your personal health profile.

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program doesnt track breast cancer survival rates by type or in stages 0 to 4. A relative survival rate compares people with breast cancer to people in the general population.

Following are SEER based on women diagnosed between 2009 and 2015:

Localized: Has not spread beyond the breast 98.8%

Your doctor will consider all this when recommending treatment. Most people need a combination of therapies.

M Categories For Breast Cancer

M followed by a 0 or 1 indicates whether the cancer has spread to distant organs — for example, the lungs, liver, or bones.

M0: No distant spread is found on x-rays or by physical exam.

cM0: Small numbers of cancer cells are found in blood or bone marrow , or tiny areas of cancer spread are found in lymph nodes away from the underarm, collarbone, or internal mammary areas.

M1: Cancer has spread to distant organs as seen on imaging tests or by physical exam, and/or a biopsy of one of these areas proves cancer has spread and is larger than 0.2mm.

Tumor Size Still Impacts Prognosis In Breast Cancer With Extensive Nodal Involvement

  • 1Department of Breast Surgery, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center/Cancer Institute, Shanghai, China
  • 2Department of Oncology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 3Institutes of Biomedical Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

Background and Purpose: Although tumor size and nodal status are the most important prognostic factors, it is believed that nodal status outperforms tumor size as a prognostic factor. In particular, when patients have a nodal stage greater than N2 , it is well accepted that tumor size does not retain its prognostic value. Even in the newest American Joint Committee on Cancer prognostic staging system, which includes molecular subtype as an important prognostic factor, T1-3N2 patients are categorized as the same population. The same is true for T1-4N3 patients. Moreover, some physicians have speculated that for tumors staged N2 or greater, the smaller the tumor is, the more aggressive the tumor. Thus, this study aims to investigate the prognostic value of tumor stage in patients with extensive nodal involvement and to compare the survival of T4N × M0 and T × N3M0.

In patients with extensive nodal status, tumor stage remains a prognostic factor independent of other factors, such as ER, PR, HER2, and grade. In patients with T4Nx or TxN3 tumors, T4 tumors exhibit worse outcomes than N3 tumors independent of other prognostic factors. The AJCC staging system should be modified based on these findings.

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How Tumor Grade Affects Your Treatment Options

Your doctor uses tumor grade and other factors about your cancer to form a treatment plan and in some cases, to estimate your prognosis. Prognosis is an estimate of how the disease will likely go for you. Other factors that go into deciding on a treatment plan include cancer stage, genetic features of the tumor, your age, and your general health. Since a high-grade cancer may grow and spread more quickly, it may require more aggressive treatment right away.

How Quickly Breast Cancer Spreads

Stages of Breast Cancer Illustration : AstraZeneca

Metastasis, the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body, is responsible for the majority of breast cancer deaths. This makes it important to know how fast a breast cancer spreads.

Breast cancer usually spreads first to lymph nodes under the arm. This is called lymph node-positive breast cancer. Breast cancer is considered early-stage and potentially curable even with the involvement of lymph nodes.

When a cancer spreads to regions such as the bones, brain, lungs, or liver, it is considered stage IV or metastatic breast cancer. This means it is no longer curable.

Most breast cancers have the potential to spread. Carcinoma in situ or stage 0 breast cancer is considered non-invasive because of its limited spread. It is potentially 100% curable with surgery.

All other stages of breast cancer are considered invasive and have the potential to spread. Spread to lymph nodes, even when early stage, is very important because it indicates the cancer’s potential to spread beyond the breasts.

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Tnm System For Breast Cancer

Doctors also group cancers by the letters T, N, or M. Each of those letters tells you something about your cancer.

âTâ stands for tumor, or the lump of cancer found in the breast itself. The higher the number assigned after it, the bigger or wider the mass.

âNâ stands for nodes, as in lymph nodes. These small filters are found throughout the body, and they’re especially dense in and around the breast. They’re meant to catch cancer cells before they travel to other parts of the body. Here, too, a number tells you whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the breast and, if so, how many.

âMâ stands for metastasis. The cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes.

How Tumor Grade Is Described

Systems for describing tumor grade can differ depending on the type of cancer. But most tumors are graded as X, 1, 2, 3, or 4.

  • Grade X: Grade cannot be assessed
  • Grade 1: Well differentiated
  • Grade 2: Moderately differentiated
  • Grade 3: Poorly differentiated
  • Grade 4: Undifferentiated

In grade 1 tumors, the cells look close to normal. The higher the number, the more abnormal the cells look. Grade 4 tumors look most abnormal.

To learn more about the system that describes tumor grade for your cancer, see the PDQ® cancer treatment summaries for adult and childhood cancers.

Tumor grade describes how normal or abnormal cancer cells look under a microscope. The higher the grade, the more abnormal the cells look and the faster it is likely to grow and spread.

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What Is Stage Ii Breast Cancer

Stage II describes cancer that is in a limited region of the breast but has grown larger. It reflects how many lymph nodes may contain cancer cells. This stage is divided into two subcategories.

Stage IIA is based on one of the following:

  • Either there is no tumor in the breast or there is a breast tumor up to 20 millimeters , plus cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • A tumor of 20 to 50 millimeters is present in the breast, but cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IIB is based on one of these criteria:

  • A tumor of 20 to 50 millimeters is present in the breast, along with cancer that has spread to between one and three nearby lymph nodes.
  • A tumor in the breast is larger than 50 millimeters, but cancer has not spread to any lymph nodes.

Understanding Tumor Size Measurement

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Tumor size is typically measured using millimeters or centimeters. For example, a tumor could be 2 centimeters or 20 millimeters. Common everyday foods may help with understanding measurements:

  • 1 cm is about the width of a pea
  • 2 cm is about the size of a peanut
  • 3 cm is about the size of a grape
  • 4 cm is about the size of a walnut
  • 5 cm is about the size of a lime
  • 6 cm is about the size of an egg
  • 7 cm is about the size of a peach
  • 10 cm is about the size of a grapefruit

Tumor size is measured based on an imaging scan or surgical removal of the tumor. Tests such as mammograms or ultrasounds may be used to take images and measure the tumor, and often may be instrumental in first detecting the tumor. If the tumor is operable, meaning it may be safely removed during surgery, it will also be measured after removal. Tumors are measured at their widest point.

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Factors Affecting Breast Cancer Stages

1. Hormone receptor status

While breast cancer staging, doctors examine tumor cells for the presence of hormone receptors. Receptors are proteins that respond to the estrogen and progesterone hormones. Doctors describe breast cancer as estrogen receptors . They also refer to breast cancer as progesterone receptors . Hormone therapy is usually the most effective treatment for cases with hormone receptors.

2. HER2 status

The next factor to include in breast cancer staging is HER2 status. The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 gene could play a role in breast cancer development.HER2 receptors protein helps in controlling the growth, division, and repair of healthy breast cells. Doctors test HER2 status to see if this receptor is above normal levels and then call it HER2 positive cancer. Targeted therapies generally work best in such cases.

3. Cancer cell appearance

How the cancer cells appear or differentiate is another factor in cancer staging. Under the microscope, doctors group cancer cells according to their appearance to noncancerous cells. Those cancer cells that are close to matching healthy cells are considered low grade. These cancer cells grow more slowly. Cancer cells that appear very different from normal cells are acknowledged as a high grade, and they tend to grow faster.

Tumor size is an essential factor to determine the breast cancer stage. Despite this factor, doctors also consider several other factors, including: Age

General health

Stage Groups For Breast Cancer

Doctors assign the stage of the cancer by combining the T, N, and M classifications , the tumor grade, and the results of ER/PR and HER2 testing. This information is used to help determine your prognosis . The simpler approach to explaining the stage of breast cancer is to use the T, N, and M classifications alone. This is the approach used below to describe the different stages.

Most patients are anxious to learn the exact stage of the cancer. If you have surgery as the first treatment for your cancer, your doctor will generally confirm the stage of the cancer when the testing after surgery is finalized, usually about 5 to 7 days after surgery. When systemic treatment is given before surgery, which is typically with medications and is called neoadjuvant therapy, the stage of the cancer is primarily determined clinically. Doctors may refer to stage I to stage IIA cancer as “early stage” and stage IIB to stage III as “locally advanced.” Stage 0: Stage zero describes disease that is only in the ducts of the breast tissue and has not spread to the surrounding tissue of the breast. It is also called non-invasive or in situ cancer . Stage IA: The tumor is small, invasive, and has not spread to the lymph nodes . Stage IB: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and the cancer in the lymph node is larger than 0.2 mm but less than 2 mm in size. There is either no evidence of a tumor in the breast or the tumor in the breast is 20 mm or smaller .

Stage IIA: Any 1 of these conditions:

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Tumor Growth Monitoring In Breast Cancer Xenografts: A Good Technique For A Strong Ethic

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    Affiliations COMPO, CRCM, INRIA Sophia Antipolis, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France, SMARTc, CRCM, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France

  • Roles Investigation, Software, Writing original draft, Writing review & editing

    Affiliation MONC, Inria Bordeaux Sud-Ouest, Talence, France

  • Joseph Ciccolini,

    Roles Supervision, Writing review & editing

    Affiliations COMPO, CRCM, INRIA Sophia Antipolis, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France, SMARTc, CRCM, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France

  • Raphaelle Fanciullino,

    Roles Supervision, Writing review & editing

    Affiliations COMPO, CRCM, INRIA Sophia Antipolis, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France, SMARTc, CRCM, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France

  • Roles Methodology, Software, Supervision, Writing review & editing

    Affiliation COMPO, CRCM, INRIA Sophia Antipolis, INSERM UMR1068, CNRS UMR7258, AMU U105, IPC, Marseille, France

What Do Cancer Stages And Grades Mean

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The stage of a cancer describes the size of a tumour and how far it has spread from where it originated. The grade describes the appearance of the cancerous cells.

If you’re diagnosed with cancer, you may have more tests to help determine how far it has progressed. Staging and grading the cancer will allow the doctors to determine its size, whether it has spread and the best treatment options.

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How Quickly Do Breast Cancer Tumors Grow

Breast cancer cells are mutated cells they dont grow the way healthy cells do. Instead, they grow at different rates than other cells in the body. Different types of cancers also grow at different rates. That makes predicting how quickly a breast cancer tumor will grow difficult.

Most breast cancer tumors have been growing for several years before theyre found. The cells will need to divide as many as 30 times before the tumor is detectable. With each division taking 1 to 2 months, a tumor could be growing 2 to 5 years before its found.

But there are things a healthcare professional can do to determine if the cancerous tumor is growing quickly. Some tumor gradings will include information that indicates how likely the tumor is to grow and spread.

This information is usually gathered with a biopsy. In this medical procedure, a professional will remove a tissue sample from the affected area. That tissue will be sent to a lab where a specialist will review it.

Cancerous cells that are highly aggressive will look very different from normal, healthy cells. The greater the difference between the two types of cells, the higher the chances the cancer is aggressive. But cancer cells that look more like the other cells may be less aggressive.

If the biopsy suggests the cancer is likely to spread, youll be monitored closely for metastases. Cancer cells can spread via the lymph system, bloodstream, or directly into nearby tissues and organs.

In The Tnm System Tumour Size Is Divided Into Four Classes:

Swollen lymph nodes are close to the collarbone.


Metastasis indicates that cancer spreads to a different body part from where it started and further affects cancer stages.

M-0 A sample of the lymph nodes was surgically removed and analyzed, and they are cancer-free.
M-1 Nodes contain cancer cells or micrometastases. The tumour has lost cells beyond its original location, and cancer is found in other parts of the body.

Tumour size

Through biopsies and imaging examinations, a surgeon can identify the approximate measurement of the tumor. It is necessary to have the actual tumor size to make the best treatment decisions.

After the lumpectomy or mastectomy process, combine the removed breast tissue with the biopsy tissue to examine the actual size of the lump. The pathological measure of the tumor is the standard for tumor size. Your post-operative pathology report summarizes your complete diagnosis of breast cancer.

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Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Cancer begins when there are genetic changes, called mutations, in a normal breast cell. These changes happen in genes that control the growth of the cell. These changes may occur over a long period of time, even decades, before a cancer cell forms.

These tumor cells multiply and divide exponentially, meaning that one cell becomes two, two cells become four, and so on. That’s why a tumor size will increase more rapidly, the larger it becomes.

That said, not all cells are dividing at the same time. The cancer’s growth can change at different stages as a tumor forms. Compared with many types of cancer, breast cancer has a “low growth fraction.” This means that the proportion of cancer cells that are in an active cell cycle is low.

Some tumors, such as lymphomas and some leukemias, have much higher growth fractions. They may be active for a much shorter period of time before they are detected, even in children.

How Is The Stage Determined

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The staging system most often used for breast cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system. The most recent AJCC system, effective January 2018, has both clinical and pathologic staging systems for breast cancer:

  • The pathologic stage is determined by examining tissue removed during an operation.
  • Sometimes, if surgery is not possible right away or at all, the cancer will be given a clinical stage instead. This is based on the results of a physical exam, biopsy, and imaging tests. The clinical stage is used to help plan treatment. Sometimes, though, the cancer has spread further than the clinical stage estimates, and may not predict the patients outlook as accurately as a pathologic stage.

In both staging systems, 7 key pieces of information are used:

  • The extent of the tumor : How large is the cancer? Has it grown into nearby areas?
  • The spread to nearby lymph nodes : Has the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes? If so, how many?
  • The spread to distant sites : Has the cancer spread to distant organs such as the lungs or liver?
  • Estrogen Receptor status: Does the cancer have the protein called an estrogen receptor?
  • Progesterone Receptor status: Does the cancer have the protein called a progesterone receptor?
  • HER2 status: Does the cancer make too much of a protein called HER2?
  • Grade of the cancer : How much do the cancer cells look like normal cells?

In addition, Oncotype Dx® Recurrence Score results may also be considered in the stage in certain situations.

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