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What Do the Different Stages of Cancer Mean?

A friend of mine told me that she is in the "staging" process of her cancer diagnosis. I want to have a better understanding of what this process is and why it's done. What do the different stages of cancer mean?

Answer

Cancer staging gives you and your healthcare team a "quick and dirty" way to describe what's going on with your cancer. Staging is different for different types of cancer, but the general idea is that your stage describes the extent and severity of the disease. Staging helps your doctor figure out the best care for your situation and helps to determine your prognosis.
 
In general, the stages are assigned numbers, with the lower numbers (such as 0 or 1) indicating cancer that hasn't spread or progressed much, with the higher numbers indicating more severe, widespread cancer. As mentioned previously, different types of cancer are staged differently, and the staging information for one type of cancer can't be used for another type.
 
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