When you’re given a cancer diagnosis, it usually includes a “stage” but what does this even mean?
Why cancers are given a stage
Basically, the “stage” of cancer describes how developed a cancer is.
In particular, it focuses on how big it is and how far it has spread throughout the body.
The reason doctors do this is because it helps them to know what treatments to recommend.
It also allows them to give you a prognosis. In other words, what’s most likely to happen to you, based on everyone else who’s had the same diagnosis as you.
Systems for staging cancers
Confusingly, there are a few different systems for staging cancer.
One uses numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4) and another uses letters (e.g. TNM), and the system doctors use depends on the type of cancer you have.
For a quick overview of the different cancer stages and their meaning, I’ve put together a reference guide for you here:
There are other letters used also, like a, b, and c to divide up the categories further, p for cancers identified by pathological (laboratory) methods, and c for cancers identified by clinical examination (i.e. your doctor).
Some cancers are classified as “in situ” or stage 0 cancer, meaning that some cells are abnormal, and cancer may develop at some point in the future, but there’s no guarantee of that.
Other measures of cancer
Cancer measures also include:
- Grades: How abnormal the cells are
- Markers: Test results for specific cancer-related compounds in your blood, urine or other tissues
- Genetics: Specific genes or mutations that indicate how likely cancer is to spread or respond to treatment
So cancer grading systems can end up being pretty complex and confusing.
Five key things to note
So, there are five things I want you to keep in mind as you look at any cancer staging:
1. Cancer staging helps doctors, not you
Firstly, these systems were designed to help doctors, so they’re not necessarily supposed to make sense to you.
2. Your stage almost never changes
Secondly, your cancer stage never changes, even if your cancer does, because all of the information doctors use for treatments and survival is based on the stage of a cancer at diagnosis.
3. Staging is most relevant for solid tumours
Thirdly, these measures often work best on solid, tumour-based cancers and may not be as meaningful for blood-based cancers like leukemia.
4. Treatments and prognosis are based on “statistical averages”
Fourthly, that the recommended treatments and your prognosis are based on everyone else who’s gone before you, but that doesn’t mean you have to do what everyone else does, or be like everyone else, now does it?
You are uniquely you, and what happens from here is entirely up to you.
5. Lymph nodes are important
And finally, I want you to notice how important lymph nodes are in the progression of cancer.
They’re almost always involved, so keeping them clean and free-flowing, like I talked about previously, can be a really powerful way to slow the progression of cancer:
So now you know what the stages of cancer are, and what that means for you.
If you have any questions about the stages of cancer, please comment below.
And have a fantastic day!
Nikki H Stokes, The Truth Fairy
BSc (Hons) [Genetics], Grad Cert Comp, Prof Cert Astrology, Reiki Prac III, Six Sensory I, Matrix Energetics II
- Are your lymph nodes clear?
- The four pathways to healing
- 12 ways to detoxify your body naturally
- Stages of cancer @ Cancer Research UK
- Stages of Cancer @ Cancer.net
- Understanding the 4 Stages of Cancer @ The Truth About Cancer