-- Question: How does the doctor determine the stage of my breast cancer?
Answer: The stage of the breast cancer is determined by having the pathologist examine the tissue under a microscope and with a ruler, to tell how large the tumor is within the breast.
And by looking under the microscope at the lymph nodes that are removed from under the arm by the surgeon -- the axillary lymph nodes -- to tell whether or not the lymph nodes are involved.
And finally, the surgeon and the medical oncologist will look at X-ray studies of the chest and the abdomen and the bones to tell whether there's any evidence of spread of the breast cancer outside the breast.
And then, by putting together all of this information -- the size of the tumor in the breast, the involvement or non-involvement of the lymph nodes under the arm, and the results from the imaging studies -- all that information together is used to determine the stage of the breast cancer.