Grading and staging soft tissue sarcomas
The information from your biopsy, scans and other tests will tell your doctors more about the grade and stage of your cancer. This information will be used by a team of doctors and nurses known as the multidisciplinary team (MDT), who will decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.
The grade of a cancer gives an idea of how quickly it might grow. Doctors examine the cancer cells under a microscope and see how they compare with normal cells. The grade helps your doctor decide if you need further treatment after surgery.
Grade 1 or low-grade or well differentiated - The cancer cells look similar to normal cells and usually grow slowly and are less likely to spread.
Grade 2 or moderate- or intermediate-grade - The cancer cells look more abnormal and are slightly faster-growing.
Grade 3 or high-grade or poorly differentiated - The cancer cells look very different from normal cells and may grow more quickly.
Grading of soft tissue sarcomas can sometimes be difficult, especially for the less common types. Your doctor will be able to talk to you in more detail about grading.
The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread beyond its original area in the body.
Several different staging systems may be used for soft tissue sarcomas. Two of the most commonly used systems are a number staging system and the TNM staging system.
In this system, there are four main stages from 1 to 4, which may be further subdivided:
The cancer is small (5cm or less) and either low-grade or the grade isn’t known. It can either be close to the surface of the body (superficial) or deep within the body.
The cancer is larger than 5cm and either low-grade or the grade isn’t known. It can be either superficial or deep within the body.
Stage 1 soft tissue sarcomas have not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
The cancer is small (5cm or less) and either moderate- or high-grade. It can either be superficial or deep within the body.
The cancer is larger than 5cm and moderate-grade. It can be either superficial or deep within the body.
Stage 2 soft tissue sarcomas have not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
The cancer is bigger than 5cm and high-grade. It can be either superficial or deep within the body, and has not begun to spread
The cancer is of any size, superficial or deep and of any grade, but it has spread to at least one lymph node, but not to other parts of the body.
The cancer can be any size, superficial or deep, and of any grade. It may or may not have spread to lymph nodes, but it has spread to another part of the body such as the lungs, liver, bones or soft tissues. This is known as secondary or metastatic cancer.
The TNM staging system is more complicated than the number staging system. We have more detailed information
about TNM staging if you’d like to know more.