Stage and grade

When you have cancer, your doctors will find out as much as possible about the cancer to recommend the best treatment plan. This includes the cancer stage and grade.

Cancer grade is based on how the cancer cells look. Knowing the cancer grade helps your doctors predict how fast the cancer will grow and how likely it is to spread. Grade is usually described using a number from 1 to 3 or 4. The higher the number, the more different the cancer cells look from healthy cells and the faster they are growing.

Cancer stage lets your doctors know how much cancer is in your body, where it is and how far it has spread. This helps them know what treatments to use. Cancer can spread within the organ that it started in, to nearby lymph nodes or to distant sites. To find out the stage, you may have different tests. Stage is described using a number from 1 to 4. Stage 1 cancer is usually small and hasn’t spread outside of where it started. The higher the number, the larger the tumour or the more it has spread. Stage 4 usually means it has spread to distant sites.

How stage and grade are used to plan treatment is different for each type of cancer. Your doctor can tell you more about the stage and grade of your cancer and what this means for you.

Find out more about staging and grading cancer.

Grading cancer

Grading is a way of classifying cancer cells based on their appearance and behaviour when viewed under a microscope. The doctor needs to know how different the cancer cells look from normal cells, how frequently they are dividing (mitotic activity) and how likely they are to spread to new locations

Staging cancer

Staging is a way of describing or classifying a cancer based on the extent of cancer in the body. The stage is often based on the size of the tumour, whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) from where it started to other parts of the body and where it has spread.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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