What is staging?

Last Modified: January 24, 2012

Question

Can you explain the different stages of cancer 1-4?

Answer

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink Nurse Educator, responds:

Staging is the way doctors define how much the tumor has grown or spread. There is a staging system for almost every type of cancer. The majority of these are based on "TNM", which takes the tumor size (T), presence or absence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes (N) and presence or absence of metastases (M), or spread to other areas of the body, combines these values to assign a stage. The higher the stage (I-IV), the more advanced the cancer is. This is then used to decide on treatment options. You can learn more about staging for any specific cancer in that tumor's overview article- which you can find on this page: http://www.oncolink.org/types/index.cfm

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Interpreting Test Results transcript.

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