What are the grades of laryngeal cancer?

Blood cells cancer

Grading describes how quickly the cancer may grow and spread. 

Low-grade laryngeal cancer

The cancer cells look only slightly abnormal, much like normal laryngeal cells. The cancer is usually slow-growing and less likely to spread than high-grade laryngeal cancer.

High-grade laryngeal cancer

The cancer cells look fairly or very abnormal and are more likely to grow quickly. Carcinoma in situ (CIS) is always classed as high grade.​

  • Grading describes the cancer cells – what they look like and how they might grow
  • Staging describes where the cancer is in your body
Cancer grading diagram

What are the stages of laryngeal cancer?

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 laryngeal cancer is called TNM. This stands for:

  • Tumour (T): How deeply has the tumour grown into the laryngx
  • 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 cells are in one part of the larynx. The vocal cords can move normally.
  • Stage 2: The tumour has grown from where it started into another part of the larynx.
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread throughout the larynx but not outside it. One of the vocal cords can't move.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread outside the larynx into the lymph nodes and surrounding tissues. It may have spread to other parts of the body.

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

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