Mouth, head and neck cancer staging and grading
Staging mouth, head and neck 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.
There are different ways to describe the stages of cancer. The TNM staging system refers to:
- The size of the tumour (T)
- If there is cancer in your lymph nodes (N)
- If the cancer has spread to other parts of your body (M for metastasis)
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 advanced cancer.
Stage 1: This is a small tumour and found in one place only.
Stages 2/3: The disease has spread to other areas of your head and neck.
Stage 4: The disease has spread to other parts of your body further away. This is known as secondary or metastatic cancer.
Staging can be hard to understand, so ask your doctor and nurse for more information if you need it. You can also call our Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Grading mouth, head and neck cancers
Grading refers to how abnormal the cells look under a microscope. Grade 1 means the cells look similar to normal cells, grade 2 cells look a bit different; grade 3 means they look very different from normal cells.
Lower grades are usually slower growing and less likely to spread. Higher grades tend to grow more quickly and are more likely to spread, but this is not always the case. Knowing the grade will help your doctor to recommend the best treatment for you.
For more information
1800 200 700