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Breast cancer health centre

Cancer staging table

BMJ Group Medical Reference

The table below shows how your doctor uses the TNM system to find out your cancer stage. [28] [29]

To use the table, you find your TNM classification in each of the three columns and compare it with the stages on the left. Stages with lower numbers represent cancers that may not have spread as far and may need less treatment.

For example, if your TNM classification is T1N1M0, your cancer would be stage 2A. Early invasive breast cancer will fall into any of the categories that start with 2. Locally advanced breast cancer would be stage 3B or 3C.

You can find definitions for the medical terms used in the table at the bottom of the page.

StageT (tumour)N (lymph nodes)M (metastasis)
Stage 0Tis: Ductal carcinoma in situN0: No tumour in the regional lymph nodesM0: No distant metastases
Stage 1T1: Tumour size is 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) or smaller.N0: No tumour in the regional lymph nodes M0: No distant metastases
Stage 2AT0: No evidence of primary tumourN1: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes. But the lymph nodes are still movable.M0: No distant metastases
T1: Tumour size is 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) or smaller.N1: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes. But the lymph nodes are still movable.M0: No distant metastases
T2: Tumour is bigger than 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) but smaller than 5 centimetres (2 inches).N0: No tumour in the regional lymph nodes M0: No distant metastases
Stage 2BT2: Tumour is bigger than 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) but smaller than 5 centimetres (2 inches)N1: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes. But the lymph nodes are still movable.M0: No distant metastases
T3: Tumour is bigger than 5 centimetres (2 inches).N0: No cancer in the regional lymph nodesM0: No distant metastases
Stage 3AT0: No evidence of primary tumourN2: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes, and the nodes are non-movable.M0: No distant metastases
T1: Tumour size is 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) or smaller.N2: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes, and the nodes are non-movable.M0: No distant metastases
T2: Tumour is bigger than 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) but smaller than 5 centimetres (2 inches).N2: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes, and the nodes are non-movable.M0: No distant metastases
T3: Tumour is bigger than 5 centimetres (2 inches).N1 or N2: Cancer is in the regional lymph nodes. The nodes may be movable or non-movable.M0: No distant metastases
Stage 3BT4: Tumour extends to the front of the chest or the skin, or is inflammatory.Any N: Cancer is in any of the lymph nodes.M0: No distant metastases
Stage 3CAny T: The tumour is any size and extends to either the skin or front of the chest wall.N3: Cancer is in the internal mammary lymph nodes.M0: No distant metastases
Stage 4Any T: The tumour is any size and extends to either the skin or front of the chest wall.Any N: Cancer is in any of the lymph nodes.M1: Distant metastases
Definitions
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ: A non-invasive cancer that has stayed in the spot where it started growing and hasn't spread further.

  • Inflammatory breast cancer: This is a rare, invasive cancer.

  • Internal mammary lymph nodes: These lymph nodes are under the central part of the breastbone.

  • Metastases: This is cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

  • Movable lymph nodes: This means that your nodes are not matted together by the cancer.

  • Non-movable lymph nodes: This means that your nodes are matted together by the cancer.

  • Primary tumour: This is the original lump or group of cancer cells in your breast.

  • Regional lymph nodes: In breast cancer, this refers to lymph nodes under your armpit on the same side of your body as the breast cancer.

Citations

For references related to Breast cancer click here.
Last Updated: July 23, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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