Staging and grading of cancer of the voicebox (larynx)
The stage of a cancer describes its size and if it has spread from where it first started. This information helps your doctors decide on the best treatment for you.
TNM staging system
This is the most commonly used staging system for cancer of the larynx:
- T describes how much of the larynx is affected and if the tumour has spread outside the larynx.
- N describes whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- M describes whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body (secondary or metastatic cancer).
Your doctor or specialist nurse can give you more advice about TNM staging. You can also call us.
Doctors may also use a simpler number staging system:
- Stage 0 - The cancer cells are in the lining of the larynx.
There are usually no symptoms, so the cancer is not usually diagnosed at this stage.
- Stage 1 - The cancer has grown further into the lining of the larynx where it started. The vocal cords still move normally.
- Stage 2 - The cancer is affecting another part of the larynx, but the vocal cords still move. It has not spread outside the larynx.
In this section, we use the term early stage cancer to describe laryngeal cancers that are stages 0, 1 and 2.
- Stage 3 - The cancer has spread throughout the larynx. The movement of the vocal cords is affected.
We use the term locally advanced cancer for stage 3 tumours.
- Stage 4 - The cancer has spread beyond the larynx into larger lymph nodes and surrounding tissue. It may have spread to other parts of the body.
We use the term advanced cancer for stage 4 tumours.
The grade of a cancer gives an idea of how quickly it may develop. To find out the grade of your cancer, your doctors will look at a sample of the cancer cells under a microscope. There are three grades of laryngeal cancer:
Grade 1 (low grade)
The cancer cells tend to grow slowly, look similar to normal larynx cells, and are less likely to spread.
Grade 2 (moderate grade)
The cells look more abnormal and grow at a slightly quicker rate.
Grade 3 (high grade)
The cancer cells tend to grow quickly, look very abnormal and are more likely to spread.