The TNM staging system is the medical standard used in the United States as well as in the international community. The system is updated every 6-10 years to make sure to account for advances in medical technology and procedural protocols. The TNM system is a tool that help doctors explain the tumor, nodes, and metastases.
T stands for the primary tumor. A designation of TX means that the tumor can’t be measured. T0 however means that the doctor hasn’t found or found any evidence of a tumor. Tis means that the cancer cells have only penetrated the shallowest layer of tissue. Tis is commonly referred to as pre-cancer. A number in front of the T such as T1 or T2 refers to the actual size of the primary tumor. Larger numbers indicate a larger tumor.
N signals whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. NX means that the nearby lymph nodes cannot be analyzed. N0 means that the nodes are not infected with cancer. N followed by a digit such as N1 or N2 describes the spread of the cancer to the surrounding lymph nodes. The greater the number the more widespread the cancer and the higher number of lymph nodes impacted.
The M in the staging system signals whether the cancer has metastasized - or spread to alternate parts of the body. M0 means that medical staff was unable to find that the cancer spread. M1 is used to describe cancer which has metastasized to the rest of the body.
In addition to the TNH staging system, a Roman numeral system is used to describe how far the cancer has advanced. The system begins with I for beginning stages and IV for the most advanced stage.
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