Cancer is a disease where the cells in an individual's body begin to grow excessively fast and out of control. This process causes damage and crowding out of healthy cells and robs the healthy cells of crucial nutrients required to keep them alive. Cancer occurs when a cell experiences damage that changes a part of the cellular DNA responsible for cell growth, multiplication, differentiation, and apoptosis. Once an individual is diagnosed with cancer, their oncologist must run further tests to determine how extensive and severe the cancer is. The stage of cancer will play a significant role in determining what methods are used for treatment and the patient's long-term prognosis. The clinical-stage of a patient's cancer is the stage of their cancer before undergoing any treatment and the pathologic stage is the stage of following treatment.
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Why Cancers Are Staged
Cancer is staged for several reasons important to the process of treatment and management of the disease. Cancer staging helps determine the prognosis of a patient's cancer or expectations of the disease pattern and outcome. The most common staging system used for cancer is referred to as the TNM staging system. The T component is a stage that refers to the size, presence, and extension of the primary tumor. The N component of the staging system refers to the level of nearby or distant lymph node cancer infiltration. The M component of the staging system describes the presence of cancer metastasis to distant areas of the patient's body. In each TNM component, the different types of cancer are further broken down into stage groups ranging from stage 0 to stage 4 based on how far the cancer has spread. Prognosis statistics for each stage group are determined by current data from thousands of patients diagnosed with the particular type and stage of cancer.
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