Determining the stage of throat cancer is the final thing to consider before discussions about treatment options are initiated. Doctors in the United States have used the AJCC Staging Manual (7th Ed) to determine throat cancer stages based on three factors just as it is done with all cancers of the head and neck. To make an educated treatment decision must begin with the stage or progression of the disease. In evaluating treatment options, one of the most important factors to consider is the stage of throat cancer.
Cancer doctors make use of various diagnostics tests to weigh throat cancer and cultivate an individualized treatment plan. Throat cancer can be staged with the aid of The American Joint Committee on Cancer’s (AJCC) TNM system, a commonly accepted method based on three key components which include:
Tumor: (T) – describes the size of the original tumor.
Node (N) – indicates whether the cancer is present in the lymph nodes.
Metastasis (M) – refers to whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
A number (0-4) or the letter X is allocated to every single factor. And a higher number shows increasing severity. For instance, a T1 score goes to show a smaller tumor than a T2 score. The letter X means the information could not be assessed. Once the T, N, and M scores have been assigned, an overall stage is assigned.
At first, clinical stage is given based on all of the information available. The clinical staging (cTNM) is determined by a cancer doctor’s findings on how extensive the cancer is before the treatment commences. The determination of stage is based on the doctor’s physical exam, imaging studies, laboratory work, and biopsies. Classification of the clinical stage is described using the lowercase prefix c (e.g., cT, cN, cM). In a case where surgical removal is included in the treatment, the tumor will be analyzed alongside lymph nodes that may have been removed. At this point, pathologic stage is next.
At the pathologic stage (pTNM), more data is provided. Classification of pathology stage is described with the use of lowercase prefix p – i.e., pT, pN, pM. This could be a little different from the clinical stage. In some cases, it might not.
There are, however, other lowercase prefixes that might be of use when staging cancer, and they include the subscript y (yTNM), which is used to assign a cancer stage after medical, systemic or radiation treatment is given (Posttherapy or Postneoadjuvant Stage). The subscript r (rTNM) comes in when the tumor has recurred after some period of time in which it was gone. This is called Retreatment Classification Stage. At this point, a patient will be assigned a re-treatment stage by a doctor using all the available information.