Rectal Cancer Stages / Staging
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Rectal Cancer Staging
Rectal cancer staging begins by evaluating three key components of the cancer: size, location and spread. In the earliest stages of rectal cancer (stage 0), the cancer has not spread and tumors are localized to the inner layer (mucosa) of the rectum or anal canal. Later stages are characterized by the growth and spread of cancerous tissues into the layers of the rectum wall.
As the cancer progresses, it may grow through the rectum wall and spread into the colon, bladder or urethra. In the most advanced rectal cancer stage (stage IV), the cancer has metastasized (spread) throughout the body and the lymph nodes.
The TNM System of Rectal Cancer Staging
The American Joint Committee on Cancer's (AJCC) TNM system uses a stage grouping of three key components; T, N and M:
- Tumor - The tumors are rated on a scale 0-4 where T0 indicates no evidence of the primary tumor expanding into local tissue, and the increasing numbers (T1-T4) describe the extent and spread of the tumor into and through the colon wall. Carcinoma in situ (Tis), describes an early cancer that has not gone beyond to the inner muscle layer (the mucosa).
- Node - If cancer is found in the lymph nodes, the quantity of cancer cells found is rated using N1 or N2. Conditions where the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes is indicated by N0.
- Metastasized - Cancer that has spread (metastasized) is indicated by M1. Otherwise, M0 is used if there are no signs of metastases.
Each category (T, N and M) is assessed and rated. An X is used to denote insufficient information (the condition of the particular factor cannot be adequately assessed).
Rectal Cancer Stages
The TNM system assesses the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread from the point of origin. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team will use the following rectal cancer stages to describe the extent of cancer in the body:
- Stage 0 Rectal Cancer: The cancer has not grown beyond the inner muscle, known as the mucosa (Example: Tis, N0, M0).
- Stage I Rectal Cancer: The cancer has grown beyond the mucosa (inner muscle) but has not spread beyond the colon to other sites or lymph nodes (Example: T1, N0, M0 or T2, N0, M0).
- Stage II Rectal Cancer: The cancer has grown into or through the colon wall. At this stage, it may or may not have reached nearby organs. There is no evidence of spread to lymph nodes or distant sites (Example: T3, N0, M0).
- Stage III Rectal Cancer: The cancer has metastasized and spread to nearby lymph nodes. The tumor may be any size (T1-T4). The cancer may or may not have reached nearby organs. Distant sites, like the lungs or liver, remain unaffected (Example: T1, N1, M0).
- Stage IV Rectal Cancer: The cancer may be any size and has spread throughout the body to distant sites such as the liver, lungs or lining of the abdominal cavity (Example: Any T, Any N, M1).
Taking the Next Steps
At CTCA, your care team will be with you every step of the way to answer your questions and to make sure you have the information you need to plan for treatment. Rectal cancer staging is the first step in treating the disease. With knowledge, expertise and compassion, the cancer experts at CTCA are here for you.
To talk with one of our Oncology Information Specialists about CTCA and your rectal cancer treatment options, call 1-800-615-3055 or Chat Online, anytime, day or night.
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