Staging and grading of children's cancers

Doctor looking at x ray CT scan

The tests your child has will help the doctor to stage and grade their cancer. 

  • Staging describes where the cancer is and if it has spread.
  • Grading describes the cancer cells – what they look like and how quickly they might grow.

Knowing the stage and grade of the cancer helps the medical team plan the best treatment for your child.

How is cancer staged?

There are different ways of describing cancer stages. It depends on the type of cancer. 

TNM  staging

If the cancer has caused a tumour, your doctor may use the TNM staging system. This refers to:

  • The size of the tumour (T)
  • If there is cancer in the lymph nodes (N)
  • If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (M for metastasis)

Number stages

Often cancers are given a number stage from 1 to 4. A higher number, such as stage 4, means a more serious cancer.

How is cancer graded?

  1. Low-grade cancer. The cancer cells look only slightly abnormal, much like normal cells. The cancer is usually slow-growing and less likely to spread than high grade cancer.
  2. High-grade cancer. The cancer cells look fairly or very abnormal and are more likely to grow quickly. 

For more information

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1800 200 700

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