How is salivary gland cancer staged?
Staging is the process of finding out how far the cancer has spread. This is very important because the treatment and the outlook for recovery depend on the stage of the cancer. The most common place where salivary gland cancer spreads is to lymph nodes in the neck.
Staging information is based on the physical exam and the other tests, such as imaging studies and biopsy results.
The system most often used to describe the stage of salivary gland cancers is the TNM system (also known as the AJCC system).
This system gives 3 key pieces of information:
- T stands for tumor (its size and how far it has spread)
- N describes whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes
- M stands for spread to distant organs (metastasis)
All of this information is combined to arrive at a stage that is expressed as a Roman numeral from I through IV (1-4). The smaller the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, for example stage IV, means a more advanced stage of the disease. Some stages are divided further with letters.
Ask your doctor to explain the stage of your cancer in a way you can understand. This will help you take a more active role in making choices about your treatment.
Last Medical Review: 09/28/2012
Last Revised: 09/28/2012