Why Is Cancer Staging Needed
For most types of cancer, doctors need to know how much cancer there is and where it is to help determine the best treatment options. For example, the best treatment for an early-stage cancer may be surgery or radiation, while a more advanced-stage cancer may need treatments that reach all parts of the body, such as chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or immunotherapy.
Of course, the stage of a cancer isnt the only factor used to decide which treatments might be best. Sometimes, cancers with different stages might be treated the same way, or cancers with the same stage might be treated in different ways. Many factors determine the best treatment options for each person.
A cancers stage can also be used to help predict the course it will likely take, as well as how likely it is that treatment will be successful. Although each persons situation is different, cancers of the same type and stage tend to have similar outlooks.
The cancer stage is also a way for doctors to describe the extent of the cancer when they talk with each other about a persons cancer.
Not all cancers are staged. For example, leukemias are cancers of the blood cells and therefore typically have spread throughout the body by the time they are found. Most types of leukemias arent staged the way cancers that form tumors are.
Cancer Grades: What Do They Mean
The grading system used by doctors, in conjunction with staging, is used to help describe how the cells look, often in comparison to normal cells. This can often help doctors indicate how a cell might behave.
The most common grading system consists of three grades, these include:
- Grade 1: The cancer cells appear similar to normal cells and arent growing quickly
- Grade 2: The cancer cells dont appear similar to normal cells and are growing faster than cells normally would
- Grade 3: The cancer cells look unusual and may grow at a rapid rate
What Do Cancer Stages And Grades Mean
The stage of a cancer describes the size of a tumour and how far it has spread from where it originated. The grade describes the appearance of the cancerous cells.
If you’re diagnosed with cancer, you may have more tests to help determine how far it has progressed. Staging and grading the cancer will allow the doctors to determine its size, whether it has spread and the best treatment options.
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Prognosis For Breast Cancer
The prognosis is the likely outcome of a disease.
If the test results show breast cancer, you may wish to speak with your treatment team about the prognosis.
The doctors will look at the type and stage of the cancer as well as your age and general health to give a prognosis, but no doctor can predict the exact outcome for you.
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Stages And Survival Rates
For many types of cancer, prognosis is often expressed as a survival rate. This is the percentage of people with a certain type and stage of cancer who are still alive a certain amount of time after being diagnosed. For example, if the 5-year survival rate for a certain type and stage of cancer is 80%, it means that 80 out of 100 people who have that type and stage of cancer will still be expected to be alive after 5 years.
Survival rates cant tell for sure what will happen with any particular person, because many other factors can also affect prognosis . But they can give doctors and patients a general idea of how likely it is that treatment will be successful.
Survival rates are nearly always based on the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. These numbers dont apply if the cancer is restaged later on. For example, the 5-year survival rate of a cancer that is initially diagnosed as stage II and later spreads to another part of the body is not necessarily the same as that for a cancer that is initially diagnosed as a stage IV cancer .
This is important to understand because the information on our pages that discusses survival statistics refers to the stage when the cancer was first diagnosed.
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Treatment For Bladder Cancer
Treatment for bladder cancer depends on how quickly the cancer is growing. Treatment is different for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer and muscle-invasive bladder cancer.
You might feel confused or unsure about your treatment options and decisions. Its okay to ask your treatment team to explain the information to you more than once. Its often okay to take some time to think about your decisions.
When deciding on treatment for bladder cancer, you may want to discuss your options with a urologist, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist. Ask your GP for referrals.
What Is A Primary Tumor
The primary tumor refers to the original breast tumor. So, any metastases are either secondary tumors, or simply metastatic breast cancer.
Note, when breast cancer spreads to the bones, it is not bone cancer, it is metastatic breast cancer in the bones.
Metastatic describes a breast cancer that has already spread to distant areas and organs of the body. Metastatic cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Furthermore, the most common sites for breast cancer to metastasize to are the:-
Once breast cancer is at this most advanced metastatic stage, the odds of completely curing the breast cancer are quite low. .
The treatment of metastatic breast cancer, after a reasonable effort, will often focus on the quality of life and relieving symptoms rather than a cure.
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Types Of Staging Systems
There are 2 main types of staging systems for cancer. These are the TNM system and the number system.
The systems mean that:
- doctors have a common language to describe the size and spread of cancers
- doctors can compare treatment results between research studies
- different hospitals and clinics have standard treatment guidelines
Some blood cancers or lymph system cancers have their own staging systems.
M Categories For Breast Cancer
M followed by a 0 or 1 indicates whether the cancer has spread to distant organs — for example, the lungs, liver, or bones.
M0: No distant spread is found on x-rays or by physical exam.
cM0: Small numbers of cancer cells are found in blood or bone marrow , or tiny areas of cancer spread are found in lymph nodes away from the underarm, collarbone, or internal mammary areas.
M1: Cancer has spread to distant organs as seen on imaging tests or by physical exam, and/or a biopsy of one of these areas proves cancer has spread and is larger than 0.2mm.
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What Is Cancer Restaging
The stage of a cancer given at the time of diagnosis and initial treatments does not change. This is so doctors can understand a person’s medical progress, help understand the prognosis, and learn how treatment affects many people.
However, if the cancer comes back or spreads, restaging can be done. This is described with a small “r.” For example, rN1 is restaging of the lymph nodes. Usually some of the same tests that were done when the cancer was first diagnosed will be done again. After this, the doctor can assign the cancer a restage or “r stage.”
The Tnm Staging System
The TNM staging system stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis.
- T describes the size of the tumour
- N describes whether there are any cancer cells in the lymph nodes
- M describes whether the cancer has spread to a different part of the body
The system uses letters and numbers to describe the cancer.
T refers to the size of the cancer and how far it has spread into nearby tissue it can be 1, 2, 3 or 4, with 1 being small and 4 large
N refers to whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes it can be between 0 and 3
M refers to whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body it can either be 0 or 1
So for example a small cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes but not to anywhere else in the body may be T2 N1 M0. Or a more advanced cancer that has spread may be T4 N3 M1.
Sometimes doctors use the letters a, b or c to further divide the categories. For example, stage M1a lung cancer is a cancer that has spread to the other lung. Stage M1b lung cancer has spread to one other part of the body. Stage M1c lung cancer has spread to more than one part of the body.
The letter p is sometimes used before the letters TNM. For example, pT4. This stands for pathological stage. It means that doctors based the staging on examining cancer cells in the lab after surgery to remove a cancer.
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Whats The Treatment For Stage 2 Bladder Cancer
Your treatment options will depend on a number of factors, such as your age and general health. Youll probably need a combination of treatments. Your doctor will monitor your progress and adjust therapy as needed. You may also need treatments to help control symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment.
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Cancer Spread In The Lymph Nodes
Sometimes doctors aren’t sure if a cancer has spread to another part of the body or not. So they look for cancer cells in the lymph nodes near the cancer.
Cancer cells in these nodes is a sign that the cancer has started to spread. This is often called having positive lymph nodes. It means that the cells have broken away from the original cancer and got trapped in the lymph nodes. But it isn’t always possible to tell if they have gone anywhere else.
What Is The Tnm Staging System For Cancer
Doctors use the TNM staging system for most types of cancer. The TNM system uses letters and numbers to describe the tumor , lymph nodes , whether or not the cancer has spread or metastases . Each letter and number tell you something about the cancer. The specific definitions for each category are different for each type of cancer that is staged using this system. Learn more specific staging information for each type of cancer.
Tumor : The letter T and the number after it describe the tumor by answering these questions:
How large is the primary tumor?
Does it go into other tissues or organs in the same area?
Where is it located?
The letter T is followed by a letter, number, or combination of letters after it. This gives additional information about the tumor. The different letters and numbers that may see include:
TX means that there is no information about the tumor or it cannot be measured.
T0 means that there is no evidence of a tumor.
Tis refers to a tumor “in situ.” This means that the tumor is only found in the cells where it started. It has not spread to any surrounding tissue.
T1-T4 describe the size and location of the tumor, on a scale of 1 to 4. A larger tumor or a tumor that has grown deeper into nearby tissue will get a higher number.
Has the tumor spread to the lymph nodes?
If so, which lymph nodes and how many?
Metastasis : The letter M and the number after it describes if the cancer has spread. It answers these questions:
What Are The Causes Of Polyps
While the specific cause of certain polyps is unknown, according to Mayo Clinic, the cause of bowel and/or rectum polyps may be a result of a simple gene mutation. While healthy cells grow and divide by the book, a mutation in a gene will cause cells to continue dividing – even when new cells arent needed. This continued growth can potentially cause polyps to form.
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Assigning An Overall Stage
Once the values for T, N, and M have been determined, they are combined to assign an overall stage.
For most cancers, the stage is a Roman numeral from I to IV . Stage I cancers are less advanced and often have a better prognosis . Higher stage cancers typically have spread farther , so they might require more intense treatment. Sometimes stages are subdivided as well, using capital letters .
Some cancers also have a stage 0, which is often called carcinoma in situ. This means the cancer is still only in the layer of cells where it first started, and it has not spread any farther.
What Goes Into The Stage: The Tnm System
There are different types of systems used to stage cancer, but the most common and useful staging system for most types of cancer is the TNM system.
The American Joint Committee on Cancer and the Union for International Cancer Control maintain the TNM classification system as a way for doctors to stage many different types of cancer based on certain common standards.
In the TNM system, the overall stage is determined after the cancer is assigned a letter or number to describe the tumor , node , and metastasis categories.
- T describes the original tumor.
- N tells whether the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
- M tells whether the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body
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Low Grade Vs High Grade Bladder Cancer
In addition to staging, bladder cancer is also described using its grade .2,3 To understand the cancers grade, healthcare providers compare healthy cells to cancer cells under a microscope. Low-grade cancer cells are ones that appear more like healthy tissue, while high-grade cancer cells look very different than healthy cells.
How To Prevent Breast Cancer
There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer. Reviewing the risk factors and modifying the ones that can be altered can help in decreasing the risk.
Following the American Cancer Societys guidelines for early detection can help early detection and treatment.
There are some subgroups of women that should consider additional preventive measures.
- Women with a strong family history of breast cancer need genetic testing such as HER2-Positive and BRCA Gene tests. Discuss this with a health care provider and meet with a genetic counselor who can explain what the testing can and cannot tell and then help interpret the results after testing.
- Chemoprevention is the use of medications to reduce the risk of cancer. The two currently approved drugs for chemoprevention of breast cancer are tamoxifen and raloxifene , which also blocks the effect of estrogen on breast tissues. Their side effects and whether these medications are right for an individual need to be discussed with a health care provider.
- Aromatase inhibitors are medications that block the production of small amounts of estrogen usually produced in postmenopausal women. They prevent reoccurrence of breast cancer but are not approved at this time for breast cancer chemoprevention.
- For a small group of patients who have a very high risk of breast cancer, surgery to remove the breasts may be an option. Although this reduces the risk significantly, a small chance of developing cancer remains.
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What Is Stage Iv Breast Cancer
Stage IV is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to distant parts of the body beyond the breast. This means it possibly involves your organs such as the lungs, liver, or brain or your bones.
Breast cancer may be stage IV when it is first diagnosed, or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread.
Stage 4 Breast Cancer General Information Stage 4 Symptoms And Treatment
- Chemotherapy destroys all dividing cells in the body.
- Radiation therapy kills tumor cells and slows the growth of new blood vessels that supply tumors.
Hormone therapy aims at regulating hormones that may cause or stimulate cancer cell growth in some people, while surgery removes parts of organs or tissues where tumors are found.
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Low Grade And High Grade Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer starts in the lining of the bladder in about 90 percent of people diagnosed with this cancer. Bladder cancer is called low grade or high grade.
- Low-grade bladder cancer means the cancer has not invaded the muscles around the bladder . People rarely die from this type of bladder cancer, it often recurs after treatment.
- High-grade bladder cancer also often recurs and has a higher chance of spreading to other parts of the body. Almost all deaths from bladder cancer result this type so it is treated more aggressively.
How Fast Does Colon Cancer Spread
Colorectal cancer tends to spread to the liver and lungs 2 years after initial cancer surgery.
A looked at Swedish people with colorectal cancer. Of the people whose cancer had spread to the liver, the researchers found that:
- 76 percent were diagnosed with liver metastases within 1 year of their colorectal cancer diagnosis
- 89 percent were diagnosed with liver metastases within 2 years
- 93 percent were diagnosed with liver metastases within 3 years
How the cancer spreads will depend on factors like:
- how early the cancer is found
- how it was treated
- the biology of the cancer
- the aggressiveness of the cell type
- whether theres a genetic component
- whether theres a family history of the cancer
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