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Not all breast cancer is the same. Doctors use certain procedures and tests to gather information about the stage and type of breast cancer in order to develop a treatment plan for their patient.
Stages of breast cancer
The stage of a cancer refers to whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast, and if so, where in the body the cancer has spread.
In breast cancer, there are five major stages.
Generally, breast cancer in stages I to III are considered potentially curable so all treatment recommendations for breast cancer in these stages are made with the goal of cure. Stage IV or metastatic breast cancer is considered treatable, and there are many ongoing clinical trials focused on this stage of the disease.
Types of breast cancer
Doctors look for chemical markers that may be present in breast tumors. These markers provide information about which treatments may work best for the patient. National guidelines state that these tumor markers should be assessed in all cases of invasive breast cancer.
Tumors that are positive for Her2 receptors are often called "Her2 positive breast cancer." Tumors that are positive for estrogen or progesterone receptors are considered "ER/PR positive breast cancer." Tumors that are negative for all three markers are referred to as "Triple-negative breast cancer" or sometimes "TNBC" for short.