Cancer stages refer to the type of cancer a person has, the size of the initial tumor, and whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The stage of the cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer. However, there are staging systems that physicians frequently use to measure, describe, and treat a wide variety of cancers.

This article examines what the stages of cancer mean and what the differences between the stages are. It will also look at cancer stages and whether or not a cancer stage can be changed after diagnosis.

What can a stage of cancer show?

Doctors use cancer stages to describe the cancer in terms of its size and whether or not it has spread. Cancer staging can help a doctor:

– plan the best treatment for the person
– recognize the seriousness and possibilities of cancer survival
– find clinical trials likely to facilitate the treatment.

Early-stage cancer may respond well to radiation therapy or surgery, while more advanced-stage cancer may respond better to chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or immunotherapy.

Stages of cancer

Doctors use a simple series of five different stages to describe most cancers. As the number of stages increases, the severity of the cancer increases, and the survival rates decrease. Once a doctor has made a diagnosis of cancer, they use several methods to classify the cancer and determine its stage.

In addition to the numbered stages described below, doctors may also describe cancer by one of the following terms:

– in situ, if abnormal cells are present but have not spread
– localized, if the cancer is present but only where it first appeared
– regional, if the cancer has spread to nearby tissues, organs or lymph nodes
– distant, if the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.

Also, not all cancers have a stage. For example, doctors do not stage leukemia because it is a cancer of the blood. Some cancers, such as brain cancer, have their own diagnostic system.

Stage 0

Stage 0 cancer is when the doctor has found abnormal tissue that has not yet spread to other parts of the body. Doctors often call this stage “carcinoma in situ”. The diagnosis of stage 0 cancer varies depending on where and how the doctor finds it. At this stage, the abnormal cells are not actually cancerous, but they can become cancerous if the person does not receive treatment.


Treatment varies, but generally requires the removal of surrounding cells and tissue. More targeted treatments may not be necessary.


The chances of surviving stage 0 cancers are high but vary between cancers. For example, stage 0 breast cancer has a 99% survival rate after 5 years.

Stage 1

Stage 1 is an early stage of cancer. The tumor is usually small and has not spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.


Treatment for stage 1 cancers often involves surgical removal or radiation therapy to kill cancer cells. The exact treatment method varies depending on the type of cancer the person is suffering from.


Stage 1 cancer is an early stage of cancer and generally has a higher survival rate than more advanced stages of cancer.

Stage 2

Stage 2 cancer indicates that the tumor is a little larger and has grown into nearby tissue. The diagnosis varies depending on the type of cancer the person has. The cancer is still localized, but it may have spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.


Treatment varies depending on the type of cancer and other factors, such as the person’s age and general health. Treatment may include radiation therapy or surgery to remove the tumor.


The exact outlook for someone with stage 2 cancer varies depending on their age, general health, and the type of cancer they have. Stage 2 cancer is often treatable and has a high survival rate.

Stage 3

In stage 3 cancer, the tumor is still localized, but it is often larger than in stages 1 or 2 and has invaded neighboring tissues. It can also affect nearby lymph nodes. The exact diagnostic criteria vary depending on the type of cancer the person has.


Treatment may be more aggressive than for stages 1 or 2. Treatments also vary depending on where the cancer is located.


Stage 3 cancer has a generally lower survival rate than cancers that doctors diagnose at stages 1 or 2. A person’s general health, age, and other factors can contribute to their chances of survival.

Stage 4

Stage 4 is the most serious stage of cancer. When a doctor diagnoses stage 4 cancer, the tumor is usually very large and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.


A doctor will often recommend a more aggressive treatment plan for people with stage 4 cancer. The goal of treatment is to slow or stop the cancer from spreading and to help the person feel as good as they can. possible. The treatment plan and recommendations will vary depending on the type of cancer the person has and what is most effective against it. Options may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and surgery.


Stage 4 cancer has a generally less favorable outlook than other stages of cancer. A person’s age, type of cancer and general health are all factors that determine their chances of survival.

TNM stages

TNM stages are the most common cancer staging system in the world.

TNM stages work as follows.

The T measures and describes the primary tumour. The scores are as follows:

TX: The doctor cannot assess the primary tumor.
T0: There is no evidence of the presence of the primary tumour.
T1-T4: These describe the size, extent, or both of the primary tumor, with higher numbers indicating a larger tumor.

The N ( for Node) indicates whether or not the cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes. The N can take one of the following values:

NX: Physician cannot assess regional lymph nodes.
N0: The cancer has not spread to any lymph nodes.
N1-N3: Cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes, with each number describing the number of lymph nodes affected and the extent of spread.

The M (for metastasis) indicates whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Possible scores are M0, in which the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, and M1, in which the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Together, the TNM scores help determine the overall stage of the cancer. In general, the higher the number following each letter, the worse the outlook and the heavier the processing will be.

Cancer categories

Cancer grades vary between cancer types. The grading system rates both the tumor and the cells that make it up.

A tumor can generally be classified into four categories, ranging from 1 to 4. The grades describe how close the cancer cells are to normal cells. To grade a tumor, the doctor first removes a small piece or all of the tumor. He then sends the sample to a laboratory, where technicians examine it and determine the exact grade of the tumor cells.

For example, a grade 1 or 2 tumor has mostly normal cells. Grade 1 and 2 tumors are slow growing and spreading. Grade 3 or 4 tumors contain more abnormal cells, and they grow and spread faster. The classification system varies depending on the type of cancer. One should ask his doctor what the specific grade of his tumor is.

In general, the higher the grade, the more difficult the cancer will be to treat because it will grow and spread faster than lower grade tumours.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.