Staging and grading breast cancer

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you may hear your treatment team talk about your cancer by its stage or grade. Knowing the stage and grade of your breast cancer is important as it helps your treatment team decide the best treatment for you.



Stages of breast cancer

 Staging describes:

• the size of your cancer (T)
• if there is cancer in your lymph nodes (N)
• if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body (M).
Your treatment team will use this TNM information to give your cancer stage a number from 0 to 4. In general, the lower the number the less your cancer has spread and a higher number, such as stage 4, means a more serious cancer.

 stage 2


“ Your records and medical notes may record your
cancer using a more detailed system than this,
but the diagnosis is the same.”


Grading breast cancer

The pathologist (the doctor who looks at cancers in the laboratory) ‘grades’ the cancer according to the way the cancer cells look. Grading is a way of describing what cancer cells look like compared to normal cells. This tells you how quickly your cancer is growing and the risk that it may spread to other parts of your body.

The cancer cells are given a grade from 1 to 3: Grade 1 cancer cells look very similar to normal breast cells. Grade 3 cancer cells look very different.


Blood tests

If you are having surgery a small sample of blood will be taken to check your general health.

Bone scan, PET and CT scan 

If there is a concern that the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, you may have a bone scan and/or CT scan. Sometimes a PET–CT scan may be used to stage the cancer. The results of your tests will help to decide on the best treatment for you.


Blood Test 2231