Understanding the Grade and Stage of Liver Cancer
When you are diagnosed with liver cancer, your doctor needs to know the stage of the disease. The stage tells how much and how far the disease has spread. The cancer's stage is one of the most important factors in deciding the best treatment.
The American Joint Committee on Cancer has developed a standard method to determine how much a cancer has grown. This method is known as the TNM system.
Here is what the letters mean in the TNM system:
T shows to what extent a tumor has spread inside the liver and nearby areas.
N indicates whether the lymph nodes in the area of the original tumor are cancerous.
M indicates whether the cancer has spread (or metastasized) to other organs in the body, such as the lungs or bones.
Once your doctor knows your T, N, and M status, he or she uses this information to put together your stage grouping. Stage grouping is used to determine your overall disease stage. Stage grouping is shown in Roman numerals from I (the earliest stage) to IV (the most advanced stage).
The tumor has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, bones, or brain. Invasion into nearby blood vessels and lymph nodes may or may not be evident.