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Stages of Cancer

If a person finds a lump, or changes in their body they should seek medical attention. Cancer can cause a number of different symptoms, from fatigue to back pain to unexplained weight loss symptoms. Doctors conduct a physical exam or test blood, urine or bodily fluids to find out what is causing the symptoms. Imaging procedures such as ultrasounds, CAT scans, MRI’S and biopsies can also help identify the presence of a tumour.

If a cancer is found, the doctor will run another set of tests to determine how aggressive the tumor growth is exactly and what stage it is. Stage (expressed in numbers 0 to 4) refers to the extent of the cancer and is based on the size of the tumour and if it has spread to other parts of the body. Once the doctor understands their stage of the cancer, he or she can discuss appropriate treatment options.

Stage 0
Tumour cells have formed in one location but have not invaded the surrounding tissue.

Stages 1&2
Cancer is limited to the location where it began or may have spread to nearby tissue (localized spread).

Stage 3
Cancer has spread further into nearby tissue or to the regional lymph nodes (the lymph nodes closest to the tumour). This is referred to as regional spreading.

Stage 4
This is the metastatic stage where cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as lungs, bone and brain. The cancer is considered chronic. Treatment, usually chemotherapy or immunotherapy will be administered to prolong life.

This is the when the cancer is no longer responding to any treatment. A focus on quality of life is the priority here, and includes managing pain and keeping the patient comfortable.