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Understanding the TNM Staging System for Cancer

Oasis of Hope

One of the leading institutions for cancer research and treatment, Oasis of Hope retains a team of oncologists and physicians that employs a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Oncologists at Oasis of Hope stage cancers through the TNM classification system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer.

The TNM system helps stage cancers by comparing the primary malignant tumor against a set of standards, as outlined here.
- Tumor (T). The T indicates the size and location of the original tumor and includes measurements for the tumor’s growth into nearby tissues. A number from zero to four follows the T depending on the size and degree of growth, with tumors receiving a higher number as they spread deeper into surrounding tissues. Physicians may also use an X in place of a number if they cannot measure the tumor.
- Node (N). The N determines the cancer’s presence in the nearby lymph nodes, tiny, bean-shaped organs located throughout the body that help fight infections. A number from zero to three follows the N to signify lymph node involvement. The number can refer to the location of affected lymph nodes or mark the number affected, depending on the type of cancer. A zero often means nearby lymph nodes do contain cancer cells.
- Metastasis (M). The M refers to the tumor’s metastatic spread, meaning the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Physicians use M1 to indicate the spread of cancer to distant parts of the body and M0 if the cancer has not metastasized.

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