Pathology tests help to determine the cancer stage and grade — classifications that are essential to choosing the most effective cancer treatment and predicting how the disease will progress.
Staging is the process by which your cancer specialists determine how to treat your cancer and how far your cancer has spread. It takes into account the primary (original) tumor size, number of tumors and whether it has metastasized, or spread to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body. Staging is based on the pathology report, physical exam and imaging tests. Generally, a lower stage indicates a better prognosis (i.e., the likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of a full recovery or recurrence).
The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) uses the TNM classification to define the stages of kidney cancer:
T is for Tumor. The number after the T indicates the size of the tumor and how far it has invaded. The larger the number, the bigger and/or more invasive the cancer. The range is from Tx (cannot be assessed) to T4 (tumor has invaded other organs).
N is for Nodes. The number after the N indicates whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and to what extent. The range is from Nx (cannot be assessed) to N1 (metastasis to regional lymph nodes).
M is for Metastasis. The number after the M indicates whether the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body. M0 means no distant metastasis and M1 means cancer has spread to at least one distant site.
Once these categories have been assigned, they are combined to determine an overall stage of disease: I, II, III or IV. In most cases, the lower the number, the better the prognosis.
|Stage IV||T4||Any N||M0|
|Any T||Any N||M1|