What Do the Different Stages of Cancer Mean?

In diagnosing patients with cancer, healthcare providers use a staging system. This system refers to how advanced the cancerous cells and tumors are, within the body, and the extent the cancer has spread to other tissues and cells in different areas of the body.

Different Stages of CancerIn addition, these stages provide useful information for the patient, the family, and the doctor, including:

  • Developing an appropriate treatment plan, such as consulting with a Los Angeles surgeon.
  • Identifying other treatment options available, like new clinical trials and new surgical procedures.
  • Helping you understand the severity of the cancer, potential to recover (go into remission), and survival rate.

There are two common types of staging systems used: The TNM system and the numerical system.

The TNM Staging System

This system incorporates three categories to better describe specific information about the cancer using various testing procedures.

  • Tumor (T) – The size and location of the tumor and how far it has spread.
  • Lymph Nodes (N) – If the cancer has spread and has infected the lymph nodes.
  • Metastasis (M) – If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

The TNM staging system can include other letters or numbers to provide further details about the cancer. However, it is not used for all types of cancers. In addition, when discussing your cancer with your physician, they may use the numerical staging system instead.

Numerical Staging System The Numerical Staging System

With this system, there are 5 stages of cancer that can be assigned based on diagnostic information, as well as the TNM staging classification assigned to your cancer. The numerical staging sequence begins at Stage 0 and goes through Stage 4.

  • Stage 0 – Most cancers at this stage are treatable, with high success rates. Stage 0 indicates the cancerous cells are still situated in the location where they first formed and may be referred to as “in-situ” cancer by your doctor.
  • Stage 1 –The cancer still has not spread to other areas of the body or the lymph nodes. The cancerous cells are typically bunched together and still contained within the original organ or tissues. Even at Stage 1, the cancer is still treatable with successful rates.
  • Stage 2 – At this stage, the cancerous cells may have started forming tumors, and have started to spread into nearby tissues or the lymph nodes in the area near the tumor. There are viable treatments with potential successful outcomes and survival rates, depending on the type of cancer.
  • Stage 3 – Once cancer progresses to this stage, it has spread into the lymph nodes and nearby tissues. Treatments for Stage 3 cancers can be aggressive, with exceptional survival rates, again based on the type of cancer.
  • Stage 4 – This stage is where the cancer has now metastasized and spread to other areas of the body and possibly other organs. This stage is one of the most difficult to treat but, with the right treatments, survival is still possible, depending on the location and type of cancer.

To learn more about surgical procedures and treatments for various types of cancers at different stages, please feel free to contact the Surgery Group of Los Angeles at 310.289.1518 now.


1. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/stages-of-cancer

2. https://www.cancerinstitute.org.au/understanding-cancer/what-are-the-different-stages-of-cancer

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