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Cancer Staging and Grading

Table of Contents


Overview

The stage of a cancer describes how much cancer is in the body and where it is located. If the cancer has spread, the stage also includes how far it has spread.

The grade describes how tumor cells look under a microscope compared to cells from healthy tissue near the tumor. The tumor grade may help predict how quickly the cancer will grow and spread.

Knowing the stage and grade of a cancer helps doctors know what treatment to use. It also helps predict how long the person will survive and what chance there is of a cure.

Cancer stages

There are several methods of cancer staging. Doctors may use this simple system to describe the overall stage of a cancer.

Doctors often need more details as they make decisions about treatment, so they may use the TNM method. The TNM method is based on:

TNM stages

T (tumor)

N (lymph nodes)

M (metastasis)

TX: Unable to measure tumor.

Tis (in situ): Tumor hasn't grown into nearby tissue .

T1 to T4: Tumor has grown into nearby tissue. The larger the number, the more the tumor has grown.

NX: Unable to evaluate lymph nodes.

N0: No cancer found in lymph nodes.

N1 to N3: Cancer has spread into lymph nodes. (Numbers 1-3 are based on how many nodes are involved and how much cancer is found in them.)

M0: Cancer hasn't spread to other parts of the body.

M1: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Most cancers can be described using the TNM system. But other staging systems are used for certain cancers (for example, cancers in children).

Tumor grades

A tumor's grade describes how its cells look under a microscope. Tumors are generally graded from 1 to 4. A lower number means more normal-looking cells and a lower likelihood that the cancer will spread quickly.

Doctors use other grading methods for some types of cancer. For example, prostate cancers are graded with a Gleason score.


Credits for Cancer Staging and Grading

Current as of: September 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joseph O'Donnell MD - Hematology, Oncology


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