Definition of Staging
A staging system is a standardized system of indicating the extent to which a cancer has spread. All cancers are given a stage at diagnosis and after surgery. Staging describes the extent or severity of an individual's cancer based on the size of the original (primary) tumor and the extent of spread in the body (metastasis). While there are several different staging systems for prostate cancer, the most widely used system in the United States is called the TNM System. It is also known as the Staging System of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC).
General Information on Staging
Staging is based on knowledge of the manner in which cancer develops. Cancer cells divide and grow to form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. As tumor growth progresses, it can invade nearby organs and tissues. Cancer cells may also break away from the tumor, entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system. By moving through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, cancer can spread from the primary site to form new tumors in other organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
Purpose of Staging
Staging aids the cancer diagnosis and treatment process in significant ways:
- Staging helps doctors in effectively planning a patient's treatment.
- The stage can be used to estimate the person's prognosis.
- Knowing the stage aids in identifying clinical trials (research studies) that may be suitable for a particular patient.
- Staging helps researchers and health care providers exchange information about patients, providing a common language for diagnosis, treatment and clinical trials.
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