Rectal cancer staging is an important consideration when it comes to determining the best approach to treatment. For instance, patients with early-stage cancers may be good candidates for more extensive surgeries, while patients with later-stage cancers may benefit more from nonsurgical treatment plans. However, while staging information is helpful for planning treatment, it is not necessarily an accurate predictor of a patient’s prognosis. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our unique approach to treatment has helped many individuals – including patients with late-stage cancers – live long, high-quality lives.
For rectal cancer staging, Moffitt’s oncologists use the same staging system that they use for colon cancers. This system takes into consideration the extent of a cancer’s spread to three different locations: the tissues surrounding the original cancer site, the nearby lymph nodes and distant organs elsewhere in the body. Once our oncologists have evaluated each of these three factors, they assign one of the following stages:
- Stage 0 – These cancers have not spread outside of the inner layer (mucosa) of the rectum.
- Stage 1 – These cancers have grown into the submucosa or the underlying muscles, but have not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2 – These cancers have grown into the outermost layers of the rectum, but have not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 – These cancers have grown into the lymph nodes or the fatty tissue directly surrounding the lymph nodes.
- Stage 4 – These cancers have spread to at least one distant organ, such as the kidneys.
When determining which types of treatment to recommend, our oncologists discuss a patient’s rectal cancer staging information along with a number of other factors, such as the location and cellular makeup of a tumor. From there, we can determine the best ways to improve the patient’s prognosis and quality of life.