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What is Cancer staging cancer grading TNM

We often hear of the stage of cancer, cancer grade, often find TNM in reports.

What does TNM mean? What is Cancer staging, cancer grading, TNM?

The stage or grade of cancer indicates how much cancer has grown and spread.

It is a good indicator of how advanced the cancer is and how well will it may respond to treatment.

As a general thumb rule the earlier the stage and lower the grace, the better is the response to treatment.

The methodology of cancer staging is called TNM,

T stands for Tumour and the number allowed denotes how far the primary tumour has grown.

N indicates nodes if cancer had spread to lymph nodes.

M stands for metastasis. If cancer had spread to other parts of the body.

When cancer is staged, a number is given for each of these three characteristics. For example, in stomach cancer, the cancer stage and cancer grade would be as follows and the TNM would indicate the following:

  • T-1 would indicate, the primary tumour is still in the stomach wall.  T-4 means the tumour has invaded nearby structures such as the pancreas.
  • N-0 indicates, no spread to lymph nodes. N-1 means that some of the local lymph nodes are affected. N-2 means there is more extensive spread to local lymph nodes.
  • M-0 means there are no metastases. M-1 means that there is metastases to some other area of the body such as the liver or brain.

A number system is also used for some cancers. That is, cancer may simply be said to be stage 1, 2, 3 or 4. Again, the stages reflect how large the primary tumour has become and whether cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body.  A grade 4 stage is often referred to as advanced cancer.

How does Cancer staging help? 

  • Cancer staging helps doctors to advise on what is the best treatment.
  • It gives both patients and doctors,  a reasonable indication of outlook (prognosis).
  • Describes cancer in a standard language easier for treating doctors to understand.

For example, if you have bowel or breast cancer and it is diagnosed in an early stage then surgery to remove the tumour may be curative. (That is, if the cancer is confined to the lining of the bowel, Incase of bowel cancer or confined to the breast and not spread to the lungs,  no spread to lymph glands (nodes) or to other parts of the body.) However, if the cancer is in a later stage,  we may not be able to remove the primary tumour,  treatment may also involve chemotherapy, and the chance of a cure is reduced.

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