breast cancer stages

Understanding Your Pathology Report

When a section of tissue is biopsied, it is sent to a pathologist for review. The pathologist sends a report back to our office that gives a diagnosis for each sample taken. There are several aspects of a pathology report, but the following is a list of key terms and their definitions.

Stage: Staging is the assessment of how far the cancer has progressed. In most cases, the lower the stage, the better the prognosis (Stage 0 to Stage IV).

Tumor Size: The size of the cancer tumor is one of the factors that determine the stage of the breast cancer.

Tumor Grade: The tumor grade is how different the cancer cells are from normal cells.

Invasive vs. Non-invasive: If breast cancer is found, it’s important to know whether the cancer is non-invasive (confined within the milk ducts or lobules in the breast) or invasive (spread outside the milk ducts or lobules of the breast).

Margins: This describes the area at the edge of the tumor examined by the pathologist. Positive margins mean that cancer cells are found at the edge of the material removed; negative/not involved/clear margins mean that no cancer cells are found at the outer edge; close margins are neither positive nor negative.

Hormone Receptor Status: This tells you whether or not the breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormones estrogen and/or progesterone.

HER2 Status: HER2 is a specific gene that can play a role in the development of breast cancer. Breast cancers with HER2 gene amplification or HER2 protein over-expression are called HER2-positive in the pathology report.

Lymph Node Status: This indicates whether the breast cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.

Lymphovascular Invasion: This indicates if cancer cells are found in the fluid channels of the breast.