What Are the Stages and Grades of Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Your doctor used blood tests, imaging scans (like X-rays or CT scans), and a biopsy to find out that you have a soft tissue sarcoma. The next step is to find out the stage and grade of the cancer. You might need more tests to get that information. But those details can help your doctor decide what treatments will help you the most. It also helps her predict your chance of recovery and how your condition may change later on.

What Is a Soft Tissue Sarcoma Stage?

The stage tells you how much cancer there is and whether it has spread to other parts of your body.

Your doctor will give your cancer a number from 1 to 4. The higher the number, the more cancer there is or the farther it has spread inside your body. Sometimes the stage will have letters after the number to give more details about your cancer.

Stages are written with Roman numerals and letters. For instance, you may have stage IIA (2A) soft tissue sarcoma.

What Is a Soft Tissue Sarcoma Grade?

The grade is part of the stage for a soft tissue sarcoma. It tells you how much the cancer cells look like normal cells, how fast they are growing, and how much of the tumor has cells that are dying. That information may give your doctor an idea of how quickly the cancer will spread.

Your doctor will give your disease a grade from 1 to 3. Cancers with a higher number tend to grow and spread faster than those with a lower grade.

What Does Each Stage Mean?

For soft tissue sarcoma:

Stage IA (1A)

  • Tumor is 5 cm (2 inches) or less across
  • Cancer hasn’t spread to your lymph nodes
  • It hasn’t spread to other parts of the body
  • Grade 1

Stage IB (1B)

  • Tumor is more than 5 cm (2 inches) across
  • No cancer in your lymph nodes
  • No spread to other parts of the body
  • Grade 1

Stage IIA (2A)

  • Tumor is 5 cm (2 inches) or less across
  • No cancer in your lymph nodes
  • No spread to other parts of the body
  • Grade 2 or 3

Continued

Stage IIB (2B)

  • Tumor is more than 5 cm (2 inches) across
  • No cancer in your lymph nodes
  • No spread to other parts of the body
  • Grade 2

Stage III (3)

  • Tumor is more than 5 cm (2 inches) across
  • No cancer in your lymph nodes
  • No spread to other parts of the body
  • Grade 3

OR

  • Tumor is any size
  • Cancer is in nearby lymph nodes
  • No spread to other parts of the body
  • Any grade

Stage IV (4)

  • Tumor is any size
  • There may be cancer in nearby lymph nodes
  • It has spread to other parts of the body
  • Any grade

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 7, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Cancer Institute: “Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ) -- Patient Version.”

American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Sarcoma, Soft Tissue: Stages and Grades.”

American Cancer Society: “Cancer Staging,” “How Are Soft Tissue Sarcomas Staged?”

National Comprehensive Cancer Network: “NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Version 1.2018 -- October 31, 2017.”

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