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Breast Cancer Treatment

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can seem to change everything — your body, your mind, your daily routine. But it’s where you receive treatment, that changes everything. That's why we focus on state-of-the-art cancer care right here at home, where you’re surrounded by your family and treated like a part of ours.

Most cancers have four stages, but breast cancer actually has five – stage zero through stage four -- and they’re represented with Roman numerals.

  • Stage 0: Abnormal cells are present, but they haven’t spread to surrounding tissue. This stage includes carcinoma in situ (CIS), which may become cancer.
  • Stage I: Tumor cells have spread to surrounding breast tissue but are still contained to a small area. Often called “early stage,” this stage is divided into IA and IB based on the size of the tumor and where it’s located.
  • Stage II: Cancer has grown larger but is still in a limited region. This stage is often called “localized” because some lymph nodes may be involved, usually those around the armpit. It’s also separated into an A and B category.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread further into the breast, or the tumor has grown larger. Often called “regional” as more lymph nodes are involved, this stage has three subcategories – A, B and C. In the latter two, cancer may have spread to the skin and lymph nodes near the breastbone or collarbone.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, possibly the lungs, liver, bones or brain. It may be called “distant spread,” as well as advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

Typically, your doctor will tell you what stage your cancer is after a physical exam and the initial report from a mammogram or other diagnostic test, like an ultrasound. (there’s a chance the stage may be adjusted after a breast biopsy – which is when a sample of breast tissues is removed – or after you have surgery, if needed.)

A term you might hear when discussing a diagnosis and stages is T-N-M:

  • The “T” stands for tumor size
  • The “N” refers to the number of nearby lymph nodes with cancer
  • The “M” notes whether the cancer has metastasized, or spread beyond the breast
  • Receptor status (ER, PR and Her2Neu), Grade and Oncotyping are also used to determine staging.

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s likely an overwhelming feeling between the medical terms and doctor appointments.

Treatment Options

Local Treatments

Some treatments are local, meaning treatment will be directed at the tumor and will not affect the rest of the body.

Most breast cancer will require some type of surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on the type of breast cancer and how advanced the it is, you might also need additional treatments like radiation either before or after surgery, or sometimes both.


Click here to learn more about surgery treatment for cancer.

Find a Surgical Breast Oncologist


Click here to learn more about radiation treatment for cancer.

Find a Radiation Oncologist

Systematic Treatments

Drugs used to treat breast cancer are considered systemic therapies because they can reach cancer cells almost anywhere in the body. They can be given by mouth or put directly into the bloodstream. Depending on the type of breast cancer, different types of drug treatment might be used, including:

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