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About cancer stages

In order to prescribe treatment, doctors need to know the extent or “stage” of cancer in the body. For squamous NSCLC and other types of NSCLC, the most common staging system is the “TNM” system.

TNM stands for tumour, nodes and metastasisThese are measured as follows:

  • Tumour: The size of the main tumour
  • Nodes: The number and location of any lymph nodes with cancer in them in the area of the main tumour
  • Metastasis: Determination as to whether or not the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body

In NSCLC, there are four main stages: I, II, III and IV. Generally the outlook (prognosis) for the patient is better at lower stages. Very generally, the four main stages are:

  • Stage I: the tumour(s) are less than 3 cm in diameter and appear only in the lung, that is, they have not spread to other parts of the body
  • Stage II: Tumours have spread to lymph nodes
  • Stage III: Tumours have spread to more lymph nodes
  • Stage IV: Tumours have spread to the other lung or beyond the lungs

Many of the tests used to diagnose cancer are also used to determine the cancer stage. There are a wide range of tests, examples include biopsy, X-ray and ultrasound.