Is there lymph node involvement?

Some breast cancers spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. When the lymph nodes are involved in the cancer, they are called positive. When lymph nodes are free or “clear” of cancer, they are called negative. Your doctors will examine samples from your lymph nodes under a microscope to determine whether any cancer cells have spread there.

In large medical studies, there seems to be a connection between the number of lymph nodes involved and how aggressive a cancer will be. Knowing how many of your lymph nodes are affected by cancer will help you and your doctor find the appropriate treatment to fight the cancer.

Doctors think in terms of three types of lymph node involvement when they look at an individual node:

  • Minimal (or microscopic): Only a small number of cancer cells can be found in the lymph nodes.
  • Significant (or macroscopic): A particular lymph node or group of nodes has become involved with the cancer. These can often felt by hand or seen without a microscope.
  • Extra-capsular extension: A breast cancer tumor takes over a whole lymph node and spills beyond the wall of the node into the surrounding fat.

In both men and women, the more extensive the lymph node involvement, the more aggressive the cancer usually is. But the extent of disease within a particular lymph node is less important than the total number of lymph nodes affected. The more lymph nodes involved, the more serious the cancer diagnosis can be.


What is the cancer’s hormone receptor status?

What is the cancer’s HER2 status?

Additional tests

New laboratory tests


Treatment & Stages of male breast cancer

Coping and support for male breast cancer

Related Topics

Benign breast conditions

General breast cancer terms

Types of breast cancer in men








Oncologists, Breast Surgeons are the specialists who deal with the breast cancer