Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Oral Cancer Staging

Two doctors discuss the stage of oral cancer A doctor will conduct tests to determine the stage of oral cancer, which is the used develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Understanding Your Stage of Oral Cancer

Doctors need to know what stage your oral cancer is in to help decide what treatment to recommend. The stage is based on the size and extent of your tumor, the number of lymph nodes involved, and whether the cancer has spread. Your oncologist will get this information from performing various tests.

The TNM System

The TNM System is a standard system for describing the extent of a cancer's growth. It is the most common system used to stage prostate cancer. It was developed by the International Union Against Cancer and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). Here's what the letters stand for in the TNM System:

Your oncologist assigns an X, or 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 Groupings of Oral Cancer

The most commonly used system to stage cancer is called the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM classification. This system defines cancers by Roman numbers 0 through IV. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. The higher the number, the more the cancer has spread. These are the stages of oral cancer and their definitions. Be sure to ask your doctor to help explain your cancer's stage to you. Each TNM category, with its assigned X or numerical value from 0 to 4, falls into one of these stages. X means that the T, N, or M cannot be determined.


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