The different stages in cancer help the doctors determine how far the cancer has spread and which line of treatment should be followed. The following article will cover information related to tongue cancer stages.
Cancer is a life-threatening disease and any kind of cancer diagnosed changes one’s entire life. There are different kinds of cancers, of which tongue cancer is a part of oral cancer. There are about 36,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer in a year. This form of cancer is a pernicious disease, whose symptoms are very hard to diagnose. It is generally detected only in the advanced stages. This makes it very hard to treat and often results in death. Doctors in order to diagnose the spread and advancement of the cancer, often carry out cancer staging. This staging method helps explain the spread of the cancer to a great extent. Based on the stage, the doctor can decide the treatment options. In this HealthHearty article, we shall concentrate on staging of tongue cancer and help you understand the way this oral cancer spreads.
Stages of Tongue Cancer
Staging is carried out by various methods, of which, the TNM system and number system are the most widely used. Understanding the stage helps a patient know the reason behind the particular treatment suggested by their doctor. Let us have a look at the TNM and number staging system for tongue cancer.
TNM Stages of Tongue Cancer
The terms TNM stand for Tumor, Node and Metastasis of the cancer. They help explain the size of primary tumor (T), if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (N) and if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (M). Let us have a look at each stage separately.
The tumor stage is divided into 4 stages. The T1 stage means the tumor is still present in the tongue tissues and is about 2 cm in size. The T2 stage means the tumor is larger than 2 cm in size, but it is smaller than 4 cm. When the tumor is said to be in the T3 stage, it means it is larger than 4 cm in size. The T4a tumor means it has spread from the tongue to the nearby tissues of the sinuses and skin. When the tumor spreads to the spaces behind the jaws, upper jaw muscles, base of the skull, etc.
The node stage is also broken down into 4 stages. The N0 stage means there are no cancer cells present in the lymph nodes. The N1 stage means there are cancer cells present in one lymph node on the same side of the cancer. However, the lymph node is no more than 3 cm away from the cancer. N2a stage is when 1 lymph node on the same side of the cancer is affected, but is more than 3 cm away, but less than 6 cm across. The N2b stage means there is more than just one lymph node affected by the cancer, but these lymph nodes are not more than 6cm away. Also, these lymph nodes are present on the same side of the neck. In case of N2c stage, cancer has spread to lymph nodes on both sides of the cancer, but are not more than 6 cm away. The N3 stage means there is at least one lymph node affected by the cancer and present more than 6 cm away from the site of cancer.
The ‘M’ stage is divided into just two parts. The M0 stage means the cancer has not spread to any other part of the body. M1 stage means the cancer has spread to other distant parts of the body, like the lungs.
Number Staging of Tongue Cancer
The number staging system is divided into 4 stages. These stages are as follows:
Also called the carcinoma in situ (CIS), many doctors refer to this stage as the pre-cancer stage. The cancer has not spread and one observes the appearance of cancer called in the tissues of the tongue. The cancer has not yet turned into a true cancer and may develop into an invasive cancer.
The earliest stage of cancer is stage 1. The cancer starts growing in the tissue lining of the tongue and the cells deep within. The cancer is just 2 cm in size and has not spread to other tissues and nearby organs or lymph nodes.
The tumor spreads more than 2 cm in size, but is no more than 4 cm in size. The cancer has still not spread to other organs or lymph nodes.
Stage 3 may indicate two possibilities. Either the cancer is bigger than 4 cm in size and not spread to the lymph nodes. Or it can mean the cancer size may vary and it has spread to one lymph node present on the same side as the cancer. This lymph node is no more than 3 cm away from the site of cancer.
Stage 4 cancer is divided into three parts. The 4a stage means the cancer has spread to other parts of the mouth like lips. 4b indicates the cancer can be of any size and has spread to at least 1 lymph node present on the same side of the cancer. It can also mean the lymph node is bigger than 6 cm or the cancer has spread to lymph nodes on both sides of the neck. The 4c stage means the cancer has spread to other distant parts of the body like lungs.
The above information serves only as a guide to help you know the various staging methods. You should speak to a specialist and get all your questions regarding tongue cancer and its stages answered.