Medical Dictionary of Bone Cancer

C A N C E R  I N F O R M A T I O N

Stage 4 Cancer

If you have been given a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer you are probably very concerned and wonder what it truly means. Stage 4 cancer is simply a level that measures how far the cancer has progressed in your. For instance, breast cancer is generally divided into four different stages. Stage 1 means the cancer is localized and small while Stage 4 cancer means the breast cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Here is a general overview of the cancer staging system:

Stage 1 cancer: the tumors generally measure smaller than two centimeters. This stage usually means the lymph glands are not affected and there is no sign that the breast cancer has spread anywhere else in the body.

Stage 2 cancer: the tumors generally measure two to five centimeters. The lymph nodes of glands may be affected in one or both armpits. During this stage it is still thought that the cancer has not spread any further.

Stage 3 cancer: the tumors are fairly large and will measure more than five centimeters. The tumor may be attached to skin or muscle. The lymph nodes or glands are probably affected yet there is no evidence that the breast cancer has went past the lymph glands in the armpits or the breasts.

Stage 4 cancer: the tumors can be any size. The lymph nodes or glands are affected and the breast cancer has spread to other regions of the body and there is secondary cancer.

While finding out that you are in stage 4 cancer can be very shocking and frightening it is important information for your doctor to know. By knowing that you are in stage 4 cancer your doctor can decide what the most appropriate treatment for you is. A person with stage 1 will be treated differently than a patient in stage 4 cancer. Without this important information you may be given treatments which your cancer would not respond to.

Staging describes the severity or extent of the cancer based on the extent of the original (primary) tumor and the extent of spread in the body. Staging is important not only because it can help your doctor determine a proper treatment for you but it can also help in giving a prognosis for the treatment or estimating how well you will do once you have had the treatment.

To put it plainly, staging is based on the knowledge that the medical profession has on how cancer develops. They know that when cancer cells divide and grow they form a tumor or mass. As the mass grows it can enlarge and invade other tissues or organs. The cancer cells in the mass can also break away from the tumor and enter the lymphatic system or the bloodstream. This can cause the cancer to set up in another area of the body.
All of this is taken into consideration when you are given a stage or level of cancer. While it is frightening to hear that you are at a progressed stage 4 cancer, without this knowledge the doctors would not know how to properly treat you.

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