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Gallbladder Cancer Staging

What Staging Means

Stage is the word doctors use to describe the size of a cancerous tumor as well as to describe whether or not it has spread to other organs. The first place cancer is found in your body is called the primary site or primary tumor. When a cancer spreads, it's said to have metastasized.

The TNM System

The TNM System is a standard system for describing the extent of a cancer's growth. The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) developed this system. Here's what the letters stand for in the TNM System.

Stages of Gallbladder Cancer

Your oncologist assigns numerical values from 0 to 4 to your T, N, and M stages. These letter and number combinations are called stage groupings. They're used to determine your overall disease stage. Stage is expressed in Roman numerals from I (the earliest) to IV (the most advanced). The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. The higher the number, the more the cancer has spread.

Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)

In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the innermost (mucosal) layer of the gallbladder. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer has formed. Stage I is divided into stage IA and stage IB.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB.

Stage III

In stage III, cancer has spread to a main blood vessel in the liver or to nearby organs and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV

In stage IV, cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and/or to organs far away from the gallbladder.

Staging Based on Treatment Options

For gallbladder cancer, stages are also grouped according to how the cancer may be treated. There are two treatment groups:

Localized (Stage I)

Cancer is found in the wall of the gallbladder and can be completely removed by surgery.

Unresectable (Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV)

Cancer has spread through the wall of the gallbladder to surrounding tissues or organs or throughout the abdominal cavity. Except in patients whose cancer has spread only to lymph nodes, the cancer is unresectable (cannot be completely removed by surgery).

Recurrent Gallbladder Cancer

Recurrent gallbladder cancer is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the gallbladder or in other parts of the body.

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