Why is cancer staging important?
Cancer Staging is the process of finding out how much cancer is in a person’s body and where it is located. One of the quintessential part of any cancer at the time of diagnosis is the stage of the cancer.
Cancer staging is based on clinical examination , biopsy and imaging. Significant advances in imaging techniques CT, MRI, ultrasound, and PET imaging have mostly rendered invasive procedures unnecessary.The histopathological findings after surgery is also important to evaluate the staging. The stage grouping must be recorded and remain unchanged in the medical record.
Cancer is staged from 0-IV. Stage 0, which is not relevant for all kinds of cancer, meaning that the tumour is in pre-cancerous stage and some doctors dismiss these cases as not really cancer. But I can assure you that whoever has this diagnosis, they might have anxiety and apprehensions, similar to those diagnosed with later stages of cancer. Stage IV cancers are those that have spread beyond the primary site and are at a much more serious stage.
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Why is cancer staging needed?
- The stage suggests the most likely outcome. Knowing the stage gives an educated estimation of life expectancy and chance of cure.
- The treatment is planned and recommended based on the stage of the cancer, like surgery and /or chemotherapy and radiation. The lesser the stage, the simpler are the therapies. In advanced stages multimodalitiy treatments are a norm.
- The response to treatment is also assessed by staging, in particular, when chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy were used prior to surgery.
- When a patient is included in a trial, it can be used how the newer modality of treatment has faired compared to the standard modality.
- A cancer’s stage can also be used to help predict the course it is likely to take, estimating the likely patterns of failure. Although each person’s situation is different, cancers of the same type and stage tend to have similar outlooks.
However, not all cancers are staged. For example, leukemias are cancers of the blood cells and therefore they ideally spread through the body by the time they are even found.
Cancer staging is a cornerstone of patient care. To compare outcomes across jurisdictions and to evaluate the long-term outcomes of populations, stage definitions are needed that are uniform across populations and time.
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