About the TNM Cancer Staging System


Cancer Staging pic

Cancer Staging
Image: cancer.gov

Oasis of Hope Hospital develops individualized cancer treatment plans based on the type and progression of a patient’s disease. The physicians at Oasis of Hope Hospital use staging to assess the qualities of a tumor and how far it has spread.

By classifying a tumor according to certain key criteria, the TNM staging system allows a treatment team to more effectively assess and communicate a patient’s prognosis. The system looks at three particular elements, the first being the size and extent of the primary tumor (T).

Some tumors will return a result of T0, which indicates an unmeasurable tumor, or TX, which indicates that there is no identifiable primary tumor. Measurable present tumors, however, will receive a T score of between 1 and 4, with higher numbers indicating those tumors that are larger and/or have grown into other tissue.

Staging also considers the status of proximate lymph nodes (N). This element of classification can indicate that the regional lymph nodes do not contain cancer (N0) or that it is not possible to evaluate the nodes (NX). Numbers between one and four indicate how many and to what degree nearby lymph nodes are affected.

The final element of classification is metastasis, or M. There may be no spread (M0), unmeasurable spread (MX), or documentable spread (M1). There are no further numerical indications to indicate the extent of the spreading.

Treatment teams use the T, N, and M classifications to determine the cancer’s overall stage. An M1 finding, because it indicates metastasis to distal regions, correlates with stage IV cancer. This is considered the most serious form, whereas cancers in stages I, II, and III may have spread within their region of origin but have not yet extended beyond it. Stage 0, meanwhile, is considered precancerous and indicates the potential development of a tumor.