Cancer: What's in a Diagnosis

December 29, 2010 James Lechner

When you or someone you love receives a diagnosis of cancer you find out a few things.

First, the type of cancer. These terms you are probably familiar with: breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer … the list goes on. In fact, The National Cancer Society reports there are around 200 types of cancer.

The next modifier you receive will most likely be a number, I, II, III or IV. The stage of cancer reflects how far the cancer has spread through your body.

  • Stage I indicates that the cancer is small and still contained within the organ of origination. 
  • Stage II indicates a larger size than stage I but the cancer is still contained in the organ of origination. In some cases the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes closest to the affected organ.
  • Stage III indicates a larger cancer in which the spread has surpassed the organ of origination and is now affecting the surrounding tissues and the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV indicates that the cancer has spread from the organ of origination into another body organ.

Your physician may also use terms like, “localized,” “regional,” and “distant”. These are simply a different way of categorizing the stage of cancer. A good rule of thumb is, the lower the stage the more localized the cancer.

With every cancer diagnosis you will also receive a treatment plan where you and your physician will talk in-depth about the benefits and risks of all your options and inevitably your chance of beating cancer. While we say that the lower stage the higher an individual’s survival chances the reality is that we are continually making strides in the treatment of late stage cancer.

In all cancer diagnoses it’s important that you work with your entire care team to develop an integrated approach to treatment, combining the latest advances in science with healthy life options.

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