Stage 4 breast cancer refers to cancer that has spread beyond the breast tissue into other areas of the body. To understand the prognosis for stage 4 breast cancer, it helps to know something about the process of metastasis. In the case of breast cancer, receiving a stage 4 diagnosis may mean the cancer has reached organs outside of the breasts, such as your bones, lungs, liver, or even your brain. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation NBCF , your symptoms at stage 4 will depend on the degree to which the cancer has spread in your body. Although metastatic breast cancer has no cure, it can be treated.
Working out how far the cancer has spread is called staging. Stages of breast cancer are numbered from 1—4. Early cancers are classified in the stages below:. A pathologist will examine the breast tissue.
Stage 2 means the breast cancer is growing, but it is still contained in the breast or growth has only extended to the nearby lymph nodes. This stage is divided into groups: Stage 2A and Stage 2B. The difference is determined by the size of the tumor and whether the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
The stage describes how far the cancer has spread, while the grade describes how active the cancer cells are and how fast the cancer is likely to be growing. The tests described here show whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. Tumour less than 2 cm and spread to 1—3 lymph nodes in armpit; or tumour 2—5 cm and no spread to lymph nodes.