Staging of oesophageal cancer

The stage of a cancer describes its size and if it has spread beyond the area where it started. Staging systems are always being updated to help doctors plan the best treatment and help give an idea of the likely outcome. This means they are becoming more detailed and complicated.

Your doctors may describe your cancer using either the TNM staging system or the number staging system.

TNM staging

This system gives detailed information about the stage of the cancer.

T – Tumour

This describes the size of the tumour and how far it has grown into the lining of the oesophagus. Doctors put a number next to the T to describe the size and spread of the cancer.

N – Nodes

This describes if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The N may have an X or a number next to it. This gives extra information about the nodes that were checked.

If cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes, the nodes are said to be positive.

M – Metastasis

This describes whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body, such as the liver or lungs. The M may have a number next to it. This gives extra information about where the cancer has spread to.

Number staging

Another system used to describe the stage of the cancer is the number staging system. Your doctor can explain your number staging to you and how the number stage relates to the TNM stage.

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The cancer registry

In the UK, each country has a cancer registry. It is used to plan and improve health and care services.