When you’re diagnosed with any kind of cancer, it’s important for both you and your doctor to understand where your cancer started, how far along it’s progressed, where it’s located, whether it has spread, and how it affects different parts of the body. For these reasons and to get a better understanding of your cancer, your doctor will need to use diagnostic testing to determine the cancer’s stage.
Here’s an overview of cancer staging:
What Is Cancer Staging?
Cancer staging is a medical examination used to find out how much cancer is in the body, where it’s located and whether it has spread. Using physical examinations, imaging scans and other test results, the doctor examines the cancer and how far it has progressed. This level of progression is known as the cancer’s stage. By determining stage, your doctor is better able to gauge your outlook and plan the best avenue of treatment to eliminate or reduce your cancer.
Why Is Cancer Staging Important?
Not only is cancer staging important to doctors in conducting research on cancer treatments in general, but it’s also essential to your individual case. By understanding your cancer’s stage, location and potential course, your doctor can:
- Make a treatment plan based on what will work best for you personally, including surgery type, radiation or chemotherapy and follow-up care
- Predict the possibility of the cancer returning after your initial treatment
- Explain your diagnosis and its details fully and clearly with you and the health team that will treat you
- Predict your chance of recovery
- Compare different treatments among people with the same diagnosis
What Is the TNM Staging System?
While there are a few different types of cancer staging systems, doctors most commonly use the TNM staging system to understand and describe a cancer’s stage. Developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer, the TMN staging system is used to answer the following key questions based on the categories of tumor, node, and metastasis:
- T: The tumor category focuses on the primary or original tumor, seeking to determine how large it is and where it’s located.
- N: The node category is used to determine whether the cancer affects or has a chance of affecting the lymph nodes. Has it spread to the lymph nodes? If it has, where has it spread, and how many nodes does it impact?
- M: The metastasis category is used to tell the extent of the cancer’s growth. Has it spread to other parts of the body? Where and how much?
Each category has a different set of notations to describe the exact conditions of the cancer’s circumstances. The TNM system also helps to determine whether any specific tumor markers or biomarkers make spreading more or less likely.
Trust Gettysburg Cancer Center
From your initial diagnosis and staging to treatment, follow-up care and everything in between, Gettysburg Cancer Center is here to provide the expert, compassionate care and home environment that will make you comfortable and confident in your cancer treatment. Contact us today for more information.