Cancer stages simply describe the extent or spread of cancer cells. It considers the size of a tumor, the depth of the penetration, the invasion to adjacent or distant organs and whether it has affected or has metastasized the lymph nodes. It is important to identify cancer stages because the treatment and diagnosis, especially the prediction of patient's survival depend on what stage you are in.
It is necessary to seek proper consultation in order to obtain the correct staging. Incorrect staging of cancer would lead to improper treatment, and reduction of the patient's survival rate. However, it is difficult to achieve the correct cancer stages. Visual discretion happens upon examination of the cancer cells. Sometimes cancerous cells are intermixed with healthy cells when being examined under a microscope. Random sampling is sometimes being done however, some cancer cells are present in the lymph nodes and absent of the specimen being viewed, thus it results in incorrect staging and improper treatment.
The stages of cancer depend on what kind of cancer you are referring and the staging system the doctor follows. Cancer stages differ on the type of cancer however; in general there are 4 stages of cancer. The higher the stage is means a more advanced cancer is developed.
Stage I - the cancer in this stage is relatively small and is only contained within the organ where it started.
Stage II - like in stage I, there is no spread of cancer in surrounding tissues but the tumor that is present is somehow larger than in stage I. There are times that in stage II the cancer cells have spread in the lymph nodes that is close to the tumor.
Stage III - the cancer is larger this time compared to the two stages. There is the evidence of spread in the surrounding tissues and a positive cancer cells in the lymph nodes in the area.
Stage IV - the cancer cells is not only in the organ where it started but has already spread to another organ in the body. This stage is considered as metastatic cancer.
Another way of staging cancer is based on the size of the tumor (T), the involvement of lymph nodes (N), and metastasis (M) which is the degree to which cancer has spread beyond the location where it originated. For example, if the tumor has not spread to other body parts, it can be rated as T3, N0, M0 and if there is a small tumor and more aggressive cancer, the rate would be T2, N2, M. This rating suggests a medium size tumor that has spread to the lymph nodes and is starting to involve other organs.
Identifying the correct cancer stages will aid the doctors to establish the proper treatment. It will also help other doctors when patient are referred.