The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread anywhere else in the body.

Staging of eye cancer

The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread anywhere else in the body. This helps doctors plan the best treatment for you. Different staging systems are used for different types of cancer. Your doctor might use the following staging system to describe eye melanoma.

Talking about staging

Your doctor or nurse can give you more information about staging. They may describe the tumour as small, medium or large. They may also use the words:

  • early or local – to describe a cancer that has not spread outside the eye.
  • advanced – to describe cancer that has spread to areas around the eye or to distant organs, such as the liver or lungs.

TNM staging system

  • T describes the size of the tumour and whether it has grown into areas around the eye.
  • A T1 tumour is small and has not spread.
  • A T4 tumour is larger and has grown into areas around the eye.
  • N describes whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes nearby.
  • N0 means that no lymph nodes are affected.
  • N1 means there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes.
  • M describes if the cancer has spread to another part of the body. This is called metastatic cancer.
  • M0 means the cancer has not spread.
  • M1 means the cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver or lungs.

Grading of eye cancer

The grade of a cancer gives the doctor an idea of how quickly it may develop. Doctors look at a sample of the cancer cells under a microscope to find the grade of the cancer. This can tell them whether the cancer is:

  • low-grade – the cancer cells usually grow slowly and look like normal cells.
  • high-grade – the cancer cells usually grow more quickly and look very abnormal.

Your doctor does not need this information to plan your treatment for eye melanoma. The grade of eye melanoma is not usually tested unless you have surgery or a biopsy.

How we can help

Information and support centres
Our information and support centres are staffed by volunteers and offer tailored information as well as a place to relax.
0808 808 00 00
Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.