What are the stages of bowel cancer?

cancer cell

Staging means finding out how big the cancer is and if it has spread to other parts of your body. Staging will help your doctor to plan the best treatment for you.

The staging system normally used in bowel cancer is called TNM. 

This stands for:

  • Tumour (T): how big is the tumour?
  • Node (N): is there cancer in your lymph nodes (N)
  • Metastasis (M): Has the cancer has spread to other parts of your body?

Your doctor often uses this information to give your cancer a number stage – from 1 to 4. A higher number, such as stage 4, means a more serious cancer.

Stage 1: The cancer is in the inner wall of your colon or rectum only.
Stage 2: The cancer is in the muscle layer of your colon or rectum and may have spread to nearby tissues.
Stage 3: The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4: The cancer has spread to other parts of your body, for example your liver or lungs.

Staging can be hard to understand, so ask your doctor and nurse for more information if you need it.

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