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Classifying Kidney Cancer Stages for Patients in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey

When a patient is diagnosed with kidney cancer, his or her physician will classify the “stage” of the disease to develop the most effective treatment plan possible. At Regional Cancer Care Associates facilities in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey, we diagnose and treat patients at all kidney cancer stages. By pinpointing the precise progression of a patient’s cancer, our care providers become better equipped to help patients maintain an optimal quality of living.

TNM Classification

One of the most common tools physicians use to classify cancers is the TNM system, which stands for tumor, lymph node, and metastasis. The TNM system breaks down as follows:

Tumor (T)

At this stage, oncologists examine a tumor’s size and location. Using the letter T and numbers 0 through 4, they can succinctly describe both of these characteristics. Here’s how it works:

  • TX: The tumor can’t be evaluated.
  • T0: There is no evidence of a primary tumor.
  • T1: The kidney tumor is 7 cm or smaller at its largest point.
    • T1a: The tumor is 4 cm or smaller.
    • T1b: The tumor is between 4 and 7 cm.
  • T2: The kidney tumor is larger than 7 cm at its largest point and has not spread beyond the kidney.
    • T2a: The tumor is between 7 and 10 cm.
    • T2b: The tumor is larger than 10 cm.
  • T3: The kidney tumor has spread to some of the kidney’s major veins but not to the adrenal gland or beyond Gerota’s fascia (the fibrous, connective tissue that surrounds the kidneys and adrenal glands).
    • T3a: The tumor has spread to the renal vein or its branches, the fat surrounding and inside the kidney, or the kidney’s pelvis and calyces (the chambers through which urine is transported). However, it has not spread beyond Gerota’s fascia.
    • T3b: The tumor has spread to the inferior vena cava (the body’s largest vein, which extends to the heart).
    • T3c: The tumor has spread to the superior vena cava and into the right atrium of the heart or vena cava walls.
  • T4: The kidney tumor has spread to areas beyond Gerota’s fascia and into the adrenal gland on the same side of the body as the tumor.

Node (N)

At this stage of kidney cancer classification, an oncologist examines whether the disease has spread to one or more of a patient’s lymph nodes, as denoted by:

  • NX: The regional lymph nodes can’t be evaluated.
  • N0: The disease hasn’t spread to any regional lymph nodes.
  • N1: It has spread to regional lymph nodes.

Metastasis (M)

For the third and final stage of kidney cancer classification, an oncologist will determine whether a patient’s kidney cancer has spread to other areas of the body. To do so, the oncologist will select from one of the following identifiers:

  • M0: It hasn’t metastasized (spread beyond the kidneys).
  • M1: It has spread beyond the kidneys to other areas of the body.

Cancer Stage Groups

After completing the necessary testing under the TNM classification system, a patient’s kidney cancer will be assigned one of the following labels:

Stage I: The tumor is 7 cm or smaller and is localized to the kidney.

Stage II: The tumor is larger than 7 cm and is localized to the kidney.

Stage III: The tumor is any size, is localized to the kidney, has spread to the regional lymph nodes, and has not metastasized; or it has grown into major veins or tissues, may or may not have spread to the regional lymph nodes, and has not spread to other parts of the body.

Stage IV: The tumor has spread beyond Gerota’s fascia, possibly to the lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body; or it has spread to another organ.

Recurrent: Kidney cancer has returned after being treated.

Fight Your Battle with Us

By discovering the stage to which a patient’s kidney cancer has progressed, providers can develop an appropriate treatment plan and better predict that patient’s prognosis. If you have or suspect you may have kidney cancer, one of the experienced physicians at Regional Cancer Care Associates can evaluate your symptoms, provide an accurate diagnosis, and offer robust treatment. To schedule an appointment, contact us today.

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