Anal cancer staging is a standardized method used by physicians to describe the condition in terms of its location and extent. The staging process typically relies on the results of one or more diagnostic tests, such as physical examinations, imaging scans, lab reports and pathology studies. When viewed collectively, this information can serve as a helpful reference point for determining the best course of treatment, as well as discussing a patient’s possible prognosis.
For anal cancer staging purposes, many medical professionals use the TNM system, which was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer. The TNM system considers three key factors: the extent of the primary tumor (T), the spread to nearby lymph nodes (N) and metastasis to distant areas of the body (M). Once appropriate values are assigned to each of these three categories, they are combined into an overall stage.
Under the TNM system, the anal cancer staging categories include:
- Stage 0 – Abnormal cells (that could potentially become cancerous) are detected in the top layer of the anal lining (a condition known as carcinoma in situ)
- Stage 1 – The primary tumor measures less than 2 centimeters in diameter, and the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body
- Stage 2 – The primary tumor is larger than 2 centimeters in diameter, and the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body
- Stage 3A – A tumor of any size has spread to either nearby lymph nodes or organs, such as the urethra, bladder or a woman’s vagina
- Stage 3B – A tumor of any size has spread to both nearby lymph nodes and organs
- Stage 4 – A tumor of any size has spread to lymph nodes and distant areas of the body
At Moffitt Cancer Center, patients with all stages of anal cancer are thoroughly evaluated and monitored by a multispecialty team of experienced surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other specialists. By emphasizing highly individualized treatment, we’ve helped many patients beat cancer and live high-quality lives.
If you’ve been diagnosed with anal cancer and would like to learn more about staging and treatment options, the experts at Moffitt can help. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.