Kidney cancer staging and grading

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What are the stages of kidney cancer?

Staging means finding out the size of the tumour and if it has spread anywhere else in your body. Staging will help your doctor to plan the best treatment for you.

The staging system normally used in kidney cancer is called TNM. 
This stands for:

  • Tumour (T): How deeply has the tumour has grown into your kidney?
  • Node (N): Is there cancer in your lymph nodes?
  • 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 not more than 7cm in size and found only in the kidney. (Also described as T1a–T1b.)

Stage 2: The cancer is more than 7cm but found only in the kidney. (Also described as T2.)

Stage 3: The cancer has spread into your adrenal gland or the fat around the kidney or nearby large blood vessels but not beyond the fibrous tissue of the kidney. It may also have spread to a nearby lymph node. (Also described as T1a–T3b, N1 or T3a–T3c.)

Stage 4: The cancer has spread outside the fibrous tissue surrounding the kidney or to distant parts of your body. Near and distant lymph nodes are affected. (Also described as T4, N0-N1, M0 or any T, N2, M0 or any T, any N, M1.)

What are the grades of kidney cancer?

The grade of a cancer describe tumour cells and gives your doctors an idea of how the cancer will behave. For example, how quickly it might grow and spread. It also helps your doctors to decide if you need more treatment and what the outlook (prognosis) is.

Kidney cancer cells are graded 1 to 4. 

Grade 1 means the cancer cells look very like normal kidney cells under the microscope. They grow slowly and are less likely to spread.

At higher grades, the cancer cells start to look more and more abnormal and are more likely to spread quickly. 

For more about grades, talk to your doctor. You can also talk to one of our cancer nurses by calling our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700 or by visiting a Daffodil Centre.

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