Cancer stages

Stage 1 cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on April 29, 2022.

Stage 1 cancer is often referred to as early-stage cancer. It occurs when cancer develops in the body but has not spread to distant regions and has not grown deeply into nearby tissue. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), we use a variety of sophisticated tests and procedures to measure the stage of the disease, and to design a comprehensive treatment plan unique to your cancer and individual needs.

At CTCA®, our cancer experts recognize that cancer is a complex disease. They work together to coordinate your care, educating you on your options and answering your question as they arise. Chat with us to set up an appointment.

What is Stage 1 cancer?

Stage 1 cancer typically means the cancer is small and localized to one area, and that it has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Even if the cancer spreads or improves, it will still be referred to by the stage at which it was diagnosed. Cancers at the same stage are often treated similarly. For example, treatment for stage 1 cancer generally includes surgery.  

Stage 1 cancer is determined in the five most common cancers in the following ways:

Stage 1 breast cancer

In this early stage of invasive breast cancer, the tumor measures up to 2 cm and no lymph nodes are involved. The cancer cells have spread beyond the original location and into the surrounding breast tissue.

Learn more about breast cancer stages

Stage 1 lung cancer

In non-small cell lung cancers, which account for more than 80 percent of lung cancer diagnoses, stage 1 means the cancer may have formed in underlying lung tissues but has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Learn more about lung cancer stages

Stage 1 prostate cancer

The cancer is confined to the prostate. It cannot be detected during a digital rectal exam and is typically expected to grow slowly.

Learn more about prostate cancer stages

Stage 1 colorectal cancer

The cancer has grown into the intestinal wall, through the mucosa (the inner lining) and into the submucosa. It also may have entered the muscle. The cancer does not appear to have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

Learn more about colorectal cancer stages

Stage 1 melanoma

The cancer cells have grown into the skin but have not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Learn more about melanoma stages

Staging cancer determines the degree to which it has grown and where it’s located in the body. In most cases, cancer is staged using some form of the TNM system, which stands for:

  • T (tumor), or the size of the original tumor
  • N (node), or whether the cancer is present in the lymph nodes
  • M (metastasis), or whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

Some cancers, such as blood cancers, and brain and spinal cord tumors, use different staging systems. For instance, brain cancer is usually graded rather than staged, based on factors including:

  • The size and location of the tumor
  • The type of tissues or cells affected
  • The likelihood that part or all the tumor can be removed with surgery
  • The spread of the cancer
  • The possibility the cancer has spread beyond the brain or central nervous system

In grade 1 brain cancer, the tumor grows slowly and rarely spreads into nearby tissues. It also may be possible to remove the tumor with surgery.

Expert cancer care


CALL NOW: 877-537-0054