Cancer stages form an important part of cancer treatment. Understanding the stages may give a rough idea of the intensity and nature of cancerous development in the body and help to undergo the most viable treatment to curb or eliminate cancerous tumors.
What are cancer stages?
Cancer is a disease that develops in a particular pattern. The malignant cells target the vital organs of the body one by one and increase the pace of infection with passage of time. These malignant cells tend to be less active in the initial or developmental stages and do not show any considerable tendency to metastasize. As the cells multiply and spread to other areas of the body, the intensity of cancer gets severe and the chances of complete elimination of cancerous tumors gradually decrease.
Cancer is said to progress from one stage to another as the intensity of malignant cells increase. Usually, the cancer is divided in four stages apart from the initial or pre-cancerous stage. First stage is the most lenient one while the fourth stage is most severe. These stages are decided on various parameters that may vary from cancer to cancer.
Stages of cancer play an important role in calculating the survival rate, prognosis and life expectancy for a particular type of cancer. Each cancer has different survival rate and is mostly calculated by the stage of cancer a victim is going through. Stage pattern also assists in cancer research and treatment and helps to increase the efficiency of therapies.
Dimensions of cancer stages
Stages of cancer take a wide number of variants into consideration to make the diagnosis more reliable and consistent.
Age is one of the major factors to be considered in staging a cancer. Cancer is a disease that develops generally in adults above the age of 45 years and the risk of being vulnerable to cancer attack rises with age. Also, the number of health complications increases with age and alters the overall pattern of cancer treatment to be undertaken. The growth of cancer cells is faster in old people as compared to young ones and thus, the cancer progresses quite rapidly from one stage to another. Hence, age of the person needs to be considered before deciding on the stage of cancer he is suffering from.
Origin of tumors is another important aspect to be considered while finalizing the stage of cancer. Cancerous cells can originate in any areas of the body and spread to other vital organs through metastasis. But the origin of tumors is the most vital area as the cell abnormality starts mainly in these or adjacent areas. Hence, it becomes very much necessary to detect the origin of tumors for proper diagnosis of the disease and judge its intensity.
Size of tumors is also an important indicator of stage of cancer. Usually the tumors are small in the initial stages and the size increases gradually as the cancer progresses to next stage.
Metastasis of cancer cells is not same in all cancers. It may vary from cancer to cancer and also depend on the immune system of the victim. Weak immune system paves way for fast development and spread of abnormal cells and helps them to metastasize with nominal resistance from the normal body cells and tissues.
Cell resemblance has also to be considered during proper detection of cancerous tumors. In some cancers, the malignant cells appear to be quite similar to the normal body cells and tissues. Hence, their detection becomes complicated and time-consuming. This may allow the cancerous tumors to grow and spread rapidly and affects the victim's body severely.
Stages of cancer
Stage 0 is considered as the pre-cancerous or the initial stage of cancer. This stage is also known as carcimoma in situ and the tumors can be completely eliminated in this phase. Also, the chance of their recurrence is almost negligible.
Stage 1 is the phase where the cancerous development actually starts. The cells start behaving abnormally but generally restrict to a particular area. Tumor size is less than 2cm and can be treated by surgery.
Stage 2 is the phase where the cells begin to grow faster and go beyond the boundaries of the first stage. They are said to be locally advanced. Tumor size can be 2 to 5 cm and can be eliminated by surgical methods.
Stage 3 is the phase where the tumors exhibit a tendency to metastasize and the cell abnormality gets severe. Cancer cells try to invade lymph nodes and other areas adjacent to the origin of tumors and are in a position to spread to other parts of the body. Tumor size is more than 5cm. surgical methods may be effective if done along with chemical or radiation treatment.
Stage 4 is the final stage of cancerous infection and the tumors spread to other areas of the body through metastasis. Cell-growth gets uncontrollable and the chances of eliminating tumors are quite less. Harsh treatments like radiation and chemical therapy need to be undertaken to treat the tumors.
Cancer stages form the basis of cancer detection and diagnosis and help in finding the suitability of the victim to a particular pattern of treatment. Stages also display the time taken by the cancerous tumors to progress from one stage to another and help to keep track of the efficiency of the current techniques to treat the malignant tumors by minimizing the side effects and the chances of their regeneration.