When doctors begin the process of tests and diagnosis for cancer in a patient, the first thing they need to find out is what type of cancer it is, and what stage the cancer is at. Cancer staging is a medical method of determining the size of the cancer, and how far it has spread in the rest of the body.
So here’s why finding out the different stages of cancer is essential to the treatment of a patient:
- Understanding the stages of cancer helps the doctor understand the speed of growth, and how the cancer or tumor is behaving.
- Knowing the stage of cancer enables a doctor to prescribe the correct treatment for it – ranging from chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, surgery, or a combination of these.
- The results of a treatment can be partially compared to research studies.
- To understand the chances of survival.
- The patient or it’s family will be able to make a rough estimate of the costs and medical expenses for the treatment prescribed, in order to raise money for it.
While most of us would have heard of the standard classification of cancer stages 1,2, 3, or 4, based on the symptoms and initial diagnosis, there is in fact another way to classify it, called the TNM staging system. So let’s begin by understanding the standard staging system that uses numbers.
What is Stage 0 Cancer?
Stage 0, is also referred to as carcinoma in situ, and implies that there is a group of abnormal cells in the body that are not yet cancerous. However, these cells have the potential to become cancerous, if the necessary measures aren’t taken. Diagnosis of cancer at stage 0 is usually good news, as it can easily be treated with less aggressive or natural techniques, combined with steps to boost your immune system. Understanding the cause of cancer and addressing it at stage 0 can make the cancer reversible.
What is Stage 1 Cancer?
Among the ‘early stages’ of cancer, stage 1 is used to describe a cancerous tumor that exists, but only in a certain part, and has not travelled to other areas such as the blood stream. At this stage the cancer is relatively small and localized, and can be treated in that area itself.
What is Stage 2 Cancer?
At this stage, the cancer has not yet spread to other areas of the body, but is relatively large in size when compared to a tumor found in stage 1. Treatment at this stage depends on the size, as well as the type of cancer a person is suffering from.
What is Stage 3 Cancer?
Stage 3 is also referred to as ‘regional spread’. As the name suggests, the tumor at this stage has spread to the surrounding tissues, and has high chances of travelling even further. At this stage aggressive treatment is usually prescribed, along with taking measures to boost a person’s immune system that will fight the cancer cells, and stop them from moving to other parts.
What is Stage 4 Cancer?
Stage 4 is the most critical stage in the cycle of a sufferer. It implies that the cancer has spread significantly from where it started, and may have even affected other organs in the body. It is also known as ‘metastasis’, or ‘advanced’ cancer. Stage 4 of cancer is difficult to treat, and may involve a combination of aggressive treatments, that have an adverse effect on the overall health of a person.
Now to understand the second method of cancer staging called TNM, T stands for tumor, N stands for nodes, and M stands for metastasis.
T – Tumor
T refers to the size of the cancerous tumor, and the extent to which it has spread in the nearby tissue. The size of the tumor can be further described in 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, with 0 being the smallest size, and 4 being the largest.
N – Nodes
This stage determines the amount of lymph nodes that are present and have been affected by the cancer. This too can be further described in numbers, with 1 being few lymph nodes, and 3 being lots.
M – Metastasis
Metastasis refers to the extent the cancer has spread to, in other areas of the body, as well as affected other organs.
While this may not be a thorough or detailed medical explanation for cancer as it varies with each case, it is sufficient for the family of a sufferer to have a simple understanding of the disease. That said, if you, or anyone you know is fighting for their life with the disease, and is unable to get the right treatment due to shortage of funds, we urge you to help them out by starting a crowdfunding campaign with Impact Guru, and raising funds from your friends, family and strangers, for the treatment.