Cancer Staging

The Stages of Cancer

Cancer staging is a universal system for measuring the progression of the cancer. Classifying the different stages of cancer can help your doctors determine your prognosis (outlook) and design an appropriate treatment plan based on the stage of your cancer.

The following factors are the most common components of cancer staging:

  • Site of the primary tumor (i.e. the area of the body where the tumor first appeared)
  • Tumor size
  • Whether the cancer has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body
  • The spread of cancer to nearby lymph nodes
  • Tumor grade (a term that refers to how closely your cancer cells resemble healthy cells)

Based on those factors, your doctor will determine the progression of your disease, using a system that classifies your cancer as stage 0, I, II, III or IV. Below is a description of what each stage means about your disease:

Stage 0

This stage describes cancer in situ, which means “in place.” Stage 0 cancers are still located where they started in the body and have not spread to nearby tissues. Cancer at this stage is often highly curable by removing the entire tumor via surgery.

Stage 1

Commonly referred to as early-stage cancer, this stage usually describes a cancer that is small in size, or a tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Stage 2 and Stage 3

These stages show evidence of larger cancers or tumors that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue and may have also metastasized to lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.

Stage 4

This stage means that the cancer has metastasized to other organs or body parts. It is also known as advanced or metastatic cancer.