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Inflammatory breast cancer stages are determined during diagnosis to describe the location and extent of the cancer in terms of its growth and spread. There are two main types of breast cancer staging. The clinical stage is based on the results of any tests performed prior to surgery, such as physical examinations, X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. The pathologic stage is determined by information obtained during surgery, along with any testing performed on the tissue that is surgically removed. Breast cancer staging information can be helpful to physicians when evaluating treatment options and predicting a patient’s prognosis.

For staging, many physicians first utilize the TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) cancer classification system, which takes into account three key parameters:

  • The size and location of the tumor, if present (the tumor, or T, stage) – While the T stage of other types of breast cancers can range from T1 to T4, all inflammatory breast cancers are categorized as stage T4.
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (the node, or N, stage) – N stages range from N1 to N3 based on the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes under the arm, around the collarbone or inside the chest, respectively.
  • Whether the cancer has spread to distant organs or tissues (the metastasis, or M, stage) – The M stage is either M0, if the cancer has not spread outside of the breast and nearby lymph nodes, or M1, if the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body.
  • These three staging categories are then viewed together to determine the overall cancer stage grouping. The overall stages of inflammatory breast cancer include:
  • Stage IIIB – The cancer has spread to nearby tissues and possibly lymph nodes in the breast or under the arm.
  • Stage IIIC – Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes near the collarbone and neck. It also may have spread to tissues near the breast as well as lymph nodes in the breast or under the arm.
  • Stage IV – Cancer that has spread to organs and tissue beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes, such as the lungs, liver or bones.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, each patient’s breast cancer staging is discussed in detail during a weekly tumor board review. As such, each patient gets the benefit of multiple expert opinions, which are incorporated into a highly individualized treatment plan. We also provide all aspects of cancer care, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and support, in a single convenient location without the need for a referral.

If you have questions about inflammatory breast cancer stages and would like to schedule an appointment to consult with a physician at Moffitt, please contact us at 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form.