What is a Cancer Stage?

Following a diagnosis of cancer, the most important step is to accurately determine the stage of cancer. The stage describes how advanced the cancer is. (Some cancers, such as leukemia, may not be staged.) Each stage of cancer may be treated differently. In order for you to begin evaluating and discussing treatment options with your TCI care team, you need to know the correct stage of your cancer.

There are many staging systems, but TNM is the most common.

T – The size of the tumor

N – The number of lymph nodes involved

M – Metastasis

TNM staging measures the extent of the disease by evaluating these three aspects and assigning a stage, which is usually between 0 and 4. Generally, the lower the stage, the better the treatment prognosis (outcome).

Stage 0 — Precancer

Stage 1 — Small cancer found only in the organ where it started

Stage 2 — Larger cancer that may or might not have spread to the lymph nodes

Stage 3 — Larger cancer that is also in the lymph nodes

Stage 4 — Cancer in different organ from where it started