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Stage 0 Breast Cancer: What It Is, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

If you've been told you have stage 0 breast cancer, it may be hard to know what to do next. You're not alone. Stage 0 breast cancer is the most common diagnosis and most women are referred to surgery without undergoing any additional treatment. The cause of the cancer isn't always known at this stage meaning other treatments that depend on the identification of the cause are also not required at this stage.


As Triwi we don't want you to feel alone. Whether you are suspecting of breast cancer or just want to get the information we have your back. Let us teach you what stage 0 breast cancer means.


stage 0 breast cancer


What is stage 0 breast cancer?

Stage 0 breast cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), is a non-invasive type of breast cancer. It means that the cancer cells are present in the lining of the breast milk ducts, but have not spread beyond the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue.


Stage 0 breast cancer is not considered life-threatening, but it can increase the risk of developing invasive breast cancer in the future if left untreated. Early detection and treatment of stage 0 breast cancer can help prevent cancer from progressing to a more advanced stage.


Is stage 0 breast cancer serious?

Stage 0 breast cancer is often a very treatable form of the disease, but it's important to know that not all stage 0 breast cancers are the same.


In general, stage 0 breast cancer is defined as cancer that has not spread beyond the ducts or lobules of the breast tissue. Stage 0 breast cancer can be further divided into two main groups:


-Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which occurs when there's a malignant tumor inside one or more milk ducts that hasn't yet broken through the wall of those ducts


- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), which occurs when there's a malignant tumor inside one or more lobules that hasn't yet broken through the wall of those lobules


stage 0 breast cancer


Is Stage 0 considered cancer?

Stage 0 cancer is not considered to be cancer in the traditional sense because the cells have not yet invaded surrounding tissue and do not pose a threat to the body. However, it is considered a pre-cancerous condition because it carries a higher risk of developing into cancer if left untreated. It is important to address Stage 0 cancer early to prevent it from progressing to a more advanced stage.


Symptoms of stage 0 breast cancer

"Do I have breast cancer?"

That is the question every woman asks -- or should ask -- at least once in her life after an abnormal test result. No one enjoys thinking about it, but it's an important question to answer. You should know the signs and symptoms of stage 0 breast cancer because you are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting the disease.


stage 0 breast cancer

1. A lump or mass felt in the breast

A lump or mass felt in the breast can be a symptom of Stage 0 breast cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It is important to note that not all breast lumps or masses are cancerous, and many can be benign (non-cancerous) conditions such as fibroadenomas or cysts.


2. Pain or discomfort in the breast

Pain or discomfort in the breast is not typically a symptom of stage 0 cancer, which is also known as noninvasive breast cancer or carcinoma in situ. While it is important to be aware of any changes or abnormalities in the breasts, such as pain or discomfort, these symptoms are more commonly associated with other benign conditions such as breast cysts or fibrocystic breast changes.


3. Change in the size or shape of the breast

A change in the size or shape of the breast is not typically a symptom of stage 0 cancer. While changes in the size or shape of the breast can sometimes be a sign of breast cancer, these symptoms are more commonly associated with other benign conditions such as hormonal changes or the natural aging process.


4. A feeling of fullness in the armpit

A feeling of fullness in the armpit is a symptom of stage 0 breast cancer. It's common for people with breast cancer to feel that their armpit is swollen or that there's something in it. This feeling can be mild, moderate, or severe.


stage 0 breast cancer


What are the treatment options for stage 0 breast cancer?

Stage 0 breast cancer is not very common. Only about 1% of all breast cancers are stage 0. You might be reading this because you were diagnosed with stage 0 or at least think that is what you might have.


Briefly, the treatment options for stage 0 breast cancer include close monitoring, surgery, and radiation therapy. Cancers are diagnosed at several stages which are further divided into stages I – IV. Stage 0 breast cancer is a very early diagnosis of breast cancer which means the disease is confined to only a few cells.


Is surgery necessary for stage 0 breast cancer?

Treatment for stage 0 breast cancer (also known as carcinoma in situ) may or may not involve surgery. The specific treatment plan will depend on the type of carcinoma in situ, the location and size of the abnormal cells, and the patient's overall health and preferences.


One common treatment option for stage 0 breast cancer is lumpectomy, which involves removing the abnormal cells and a small amount of surrounding tissue. This procedure may be combined with radiation therapy to reduce the risk of cancer returning. In some cases, a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) may be recommended, particularly if the cancer is large or if the patient has a high risk of the cancer returning.


Other treatment options for stage 0 breast cancer may include hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and/or chemotherapy, depending on the specific characteristics of cancer and the patient's needs.


What about chemotherapy?

Whether chemotherapy is necessary for stage 0 breast cancer depends on various factors, including the size and location of cancer, the type and grade of the cancer cells, the presence of certain genetic markers, and the patient's overall health and treatment goals.


Some patients with stage 0 breast cancer may be advised to undergo chemotherapy as part of their treatment plan to reduce the risk of recurrence or as adjuvant therapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Other patients may not need chemotherapy if the cancer is small and has a low risk of recurrence.




It is important to discuss all treatment options with your healthcare team, including the potential benefits and risks of chemotherapy, to make an informed decision about your care.


When and how does my doctor determine the stage of my breast cancer?

The stages of cancer are important to understand because they let you know how serious your cancer is, in a general way. Normally, the higher the stage of cancer, the more advanced the disease. It's helpful to understand what the stages are.


There are several different staging systems for breast cancer, but the most commonly used is the TNM system, which stands for Tumor, Node, and Metastasis. The T stage refers to the size and location of the primary tumor, the N stage refers to the presence and spread of cancer to the lymph nodes, and the M stage refers to the presence of metastasis or spread of cancer to other parts of the body.


To determine the stage of your breast cancer, your doctor will review the results of various diagnostic tests, including a physical examination, mammography, ultrasound, and biopsy. They may also order imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or PET scan to evaluate the extent of cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Based on the results of these tests, your doctor will assign a stage to your breast cancer using the TNM system.


It is important to note that the stage of breast cancer is not fixed and can change over time as more information becomes available or if cancer progresses. Therefore, it is important to continue to follow up with your healthcare team regularly and undergo any recommended tests or treatments as part of your ongoing care.


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