To determine the best treatment for you, the healthcare team needs to know where the cancer is in your body. Staging is the way that doctors find our where the cancer is. To determine the stage of your tumor, your doctor will order a number of tests. Once the stage of the cancer is known, you and your doctor can talk about the best treatment plan.

The site where the cancer started is called the primary tumor. Cancer cells may spread to tissue around the primary tumor or break away and spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). Sites where the cancer has spread are called metastatic tumors. Although the meaning of each stage may be different for different types of tumors, in general:

  • Stage I means that the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stage II usually means that the cancer has spread locally beyond the main tumor. The cancer may have spread to tissue or a lymph node close to the primary tumor.
  • Stage III usually means that the tumor is very large and difficult to take out.
  • Stage IV means that the cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor to distant parts of the body.