The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread. Once your doctors know the stage of the cancer, they can plan your treatment.
The most commonly used staging system for kidney cancer is the TNM system:
- T refers to the tumour size.
- N refers to whether lymph nodes are affected.
- M refers to whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastases).
T stands for tumour
- T1 – The cancer is only in the kidney and is no larger than 7cm.
- T1a – The cancer is no larger than 4cm.
- T1b – The cancer is larger than 4cm but not larger than 7cm.
- T2 – The cancer is larger than 7cm and is inside the kidney.
- T3 – The cancer is growing into the fat around the kidney or into a major vein (the vena cava and renal vein) close to the kidney. But it is not growing beyond the outer covering of the kidney (capsule). See page 11 for an illustration of the kidney.
- T4 – The cancer has spread outside the capsule that surrounds the kidney. It may have grown into the adrenal gland.
N stands for nodes
- N0 – There are no cancer cells in any lymph nodes.
- N1 – There are cancer cells in one or more lymph nodes.
If the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes, the nodes are said to be positive.
M stands for metastases
- M0 – The cancer has not spread to other distant parts of the body.
- M1 – The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain. If the cancer has spread, it’s called secondary or metastatic kidney cancer.
- The T, N and M stages may be grouped together to give a number stage for the cancer. These range from stages 1–4.