Metastatic Cancer Stages
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As you visit a doctor for the diagnosis of cancer, your doctor will firstly look for the extent of cancer spread in your body, as it is the key tool which helps to decide the right treatment option for you. Understanding the metastatic cancer stages is essential, since it assists the doctor to opt for the best metastatic cancer therapy for treating your cancer more effectively. Staging of cancer describes the severity of cancer which is based on the extent of spread from the original site. It also allows the patient as well as doctor to estimate the survival rate of the patient, as person with metastatic cancer has less life expectancy (cancer spread in other body parts).
Why staging is important?
Staging of cancer is essential for various reasons:
- Staging allows the doctor to decide an appropriate treatment plan.
- Metastatic cancer stages can be used to estimate the metastatic cancer prognosis patient.
- Understating the stage of the patient is essential for seeking the new clinical trials that may suit the condition of the patient.
- Staging also allows the researchers and doctors to exchange the information of different patients; it provides a general terminology to determine the outcomes of the various clinical trials as well as comparing their results.
Staging basically provides the knowledge about the way in which the cancer grows in the body. Cancer cells develop and divide uncontrollably without getting destroyed on their own. As a result, they tend to form a cluster of cells which develops into a tumor. As the tumor develops, it starts invading the nearby tissues as well as organs. At the metastatic stage, these cancer cells start erupting from the tumor to enter the blood vessels and the lymphatic vessels. By travelling through the lymphatic vessels and the blood stream, these cancer cells start spreading into the other body organs thus forming new tumors.
Common factors of staging system:
Metastatic cancer staging system has evolved with the time. A number of alterations keep on adding in this system as the researchers study more about the cancer. Some staging system covers most of the cancers, while others target some specific type of cancers. The common factors that are allied with the metastatic cancer stages are:
- Original site of the tumor
- Number and size of the tumors
- Involvement of the lymph nodes ( extent of cancer spread in the lymph nodes)
- Type and grade of cancer cell
- Extent at which the cancer has spread (which distant organs got affected due to the cancer cells).
How cancer stage is classified?
Cancer staging can be performed in five categories:
- Situ: Abnormal cells can be seen in the layer of the tissues where they are developing.
- Local: Cancerous tumor is present only at the original location without any evidence of spread into the adjoin parts.
- Regional: Cancer gets spread beyond the original site i.e. into the nearby organs, tissues and lymph nodes.
- Distant: Cancer gets spread at distant levels (distant lymph nodes and organs).
- Unknown: When there is insufficient information about the spread of the cancer, it is categorized as unknown.
Types of tests used to determine the cancer stage
The types of tests used for determining the Metastatic Cancer Stages depends on the type of cancer.
- Imaging tests: Producing images inside the body to determine the spread of cancer. This technique involves x-rays, MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computed tomography), and PET scans (positron emission tomography) to see the location and size of the tumor.
- Physical tests: In this method, the doctor examines the overall body of the patient to observe, feel and listen to any unusual sounds. This exam helps to determine the location and size of the tumor.
- Pathological study: This involves the biopsy report, which reveals the information about the size and grade of the tumor. Cytology report is helpful to determine the cells in the body fluid.
- Laboratory report: This involves blood, urine and other body fluid tests, which helps to know the percentage of any particular substance which stimulates the growth of cancer cells.
- Surgical studies: This report reveals the size and spread of the tumor during cancer surgery.
All the above features and tests are involved in the determination of metastatic cancer stages. Staging is significant for selecting the right treatment option.