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Cancer Genetics

Stage 4 Cancer

06/07/2000

Question:

What is stage 4 cancer?

Answer:

The American Joint Committee on Cancer Staging (AJCC)has described the principal goal of staging as a means of defining the natural history of the disease. This includes the ability to judge treatment results between various centers as well as a means of defining the outlook for individual patients.

Current staging for cancers is based on the tumor-nodes-metastasis (TNM) classification. T stage indicates the extent of the primary cancer, usually based on tumor size. N represents the extent of lymph node involvement in the region. M is a measure of distant metastasis or spread of the cancer to distant locations in the body.

Evaluation of each type of cancer uses the TNM status a little differently to determine a Stage of I, II, III, or IV. Typically, Stage IV cancer indicates that there is spread to a distant location in the body (M1) or a very large tumor at the original site (T4). Successful treatment of individuals with Stage IV cancer is usually more difficult to accomplish.

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Response by:

Judith A Westman, MD Judith A Westman, MD
Associate Professor, Clinical Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Biochemistry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University