Staging of gall bladder cancer

The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread from where it started. Knowing the stage of the cancer helps doctors decide on the best treatment for you.

The most commonly used staging systems for gall bladder cancer are the number and TNM staging systems.

Number staging system

This staging system uses numbers to describe the stage of the cancer. There are four stages of gall bladder cancer:

  • Stage 1
    The cancer affects only the wall of the gall bladder.
  • Stage 2
    The cancer has spread through the wall of the gall bladder, but not to nearby lymph nodes or surrounding organs.
  • Stage 3
    The cancer has spread to lymph nodes close to the gall bladder or has spread to the liver, stomach, colon or small bowel.
  • Stage 4
    The cancer has spread very deeply into two or more organs close to the gall bladder, or it has spread to distant lymph nodes or organs, such as the lungs. This is known as metastatic or secondary cancer.

TNM staging system

A different system called the TNM staging system is sometimes used. TNM stands for tumour, node and metastases.

  • T describes the size of the tumour
  • N describes whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • M describes whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body, such as the liver (secondary or metastatic cancer).

Recurrent cancer

If the cancer comes back after it was first treated, it is known as recurrent cancer.

Grading of gall bladder cancer

Grading means the way cancer cells look under a microscope. It gives an idea of how quickly a cancer may develop.

In low-grade tumours, the cancer cells look similar to normal cells. They are usually slow-growing and are less likely to spread. In high-grade tumours, the cells look very abnormal. They are likely to grow more quickly and are more likely to spread.

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