Stage and Grade of Cancer

The stage and grade of a cancer are ways to measure how severe the disease is. Tumours are described by their size, whether they have spread, and how their cells look under a microscope.

There are three parts to staging:

  • Tumour size (T)
  • Involvement of lymph nodes (N)
  • Whether the tumour has spread (metastasized) from the original site to other parts of the body (M)

This staging system is commonly referred to as the TNM cancer staging system. Some cancers, such as lymphomas, have a different staging system. Most leukemias don't have a staging system.

Tumour grading describes how tumour cells look under a microscope. Tumour cells that look like normal cells (well-differentiated) are called Grade 1 tumours. They usually grow slowly. Cells that look very different from normal cells are said to be undifferentiated (Grade 4). These cells often grow quickly and spread rapidly.

The following system may be used to grade tumours:

  • Grade cannot be assessed (GX)
  • Well-differentiated (G1)
  • Moderately differentiated (G2)
  • Poorly differentiated (G3)
  • Undifferentiated (G4)

This is a general grading system. Some cancers, such as prostate cancer and bladder cancer, have their own grading systems.

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