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How is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) staged using the TNM system?

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The most common way to stage your non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumor is by using the TNM (tumor, node involvement, metastasis) system with the numbers X, 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 after each letter. These number and letter combinations describe:

Doctors may also use general stages for NSCLC. Yours may use the TNM system and numbers to stage your cancer in each of these:

  • Your tumor’s width measured in centimeters, or if it’s too tiny to be measured at all
  • Where your tumor is located in your lung
  • If there’s more than one tumor in the same lung
  • If your airways are partly blocked or clogged enough to cause a lung collapse or pneumonia
  • If the tumor has spread to your lymph nodes or other organs
  • Occult stage: Cancer cells can be picked up in the mucus you cough up. Your tumor can’t be seen on imaging scans or a biopsy. It’s also called hidden cancer.
  • Stage 0: Your tumor is very small. Cancer cells haven’t spread into your deeper lung tissues or outside your lungs.
  • Stage I: Cancer is in your lung tissues but not your lymph nodes.
  • Stage II: The disease may have spread to your lymph nodes near your lungs.
  • Stage III: It has spread further into your lymph nodes and the middle of your chest.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread widely around your body. It may have spread to your brain, bones, or liver.

SOURCES:

American Lung Association: “Lung Cancer Staging.”

LungCancer.org: “Types and Staging of Lung Cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages.”

American Joint Committee on Cancer: “What Is Cancer Staging?”

Roswell Park Cancer Center: “Tumor Staging.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on June 30, 2017

SOURCES:

American Lung Association: “Lung Cancer Staging.”

LungCancer.org: “Types and Staging of Lung Cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages.”

American Joint Committee on Cancer: “What Is Cancer Staging?”

Roswell Park Cancer Center: “Tumor Staging.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on June 30, 2017

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