Spinal Cancer Grading
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The staging process assesses the spread of cancer beyond the origin site. Since it is rare for spinal tumors to spread outside of the central nervous system (CNS), spinal cancer is usually graded rather than staged.
Grading spinal cancer helps our doctors match treatments to individual needs. For example, it can help us determine the risk for vertebrae collapse (fracture) and the need for surgical intervention.
Spinal Tumor Grading System
The grading system for primary spinal cancer is as follows:
- Grade I (low-grade): The tumor grows slowly and rarely spreads into nearby tissues. It may be possible to completely remove the tumor with surgery.
- Grade II: The tumor grows slowly, but may spread into nearby tissue or recur.
- Grade III: The tumor grows quickly, is likely to spread into nearby tissue, and the tumor cells look very different from normal cells.
- Grade IV (high-grade): The tumor grows and spreads very quickly, and the spinal tumor cells do not look like normal cells. Metastatic brain disease is almost always grade IV.
Metastatic Spinal Tumors
Metastatic (or secondary) spinal tumors, which have spread to the spine from another location in the body, are much more common than primary spinal tumors. Some cancers that commonly spread to the spine are lung, breast, prostate and colon.
Rather than using the spinal cancer grading system, metastatic spinal cancers are generally assessed through the Tumor, Node, Metastasized (spread) staging system (TNM). Sometimes, individuals are diagnosed with metastatic brain or spinal cancer before they realize they have another primary cancer.
Planning Your Spinal Cancer Treatment
Once your CTCA care team knows the location, type, size, and grade of the spinal tumor, we can plan your individualized treatment. We’ll work closely with you to answer your questions and plan spinal cancer treatment that’s tailored to your unique needs.
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