TNM staging of cancer

Staging is the assessment of a patient's tumour burden. It rises from the observation that survival rates are higher for cases in which disease is localized rather than disseminated. It is performed prior to therapy and can be subdivided into clinical, radiological, and pathological.

Staging of cancer at presentation is essential for the patients, allowing accurate prediction of prognosis and planning of treatment modalities. It is also allows comparison of care to be made between different institutions and treatment approaches and for results between different chronological groupings to be compared. A generic approach is the TNM system: T—extent of the primary tumour.

N—absence or presence and extent of regional lymph node metastases.

M—absence or presence of distant metastases. Adding numbers to these components indicates the extent of the disease and any progressive increase in the tumour burden.

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