For any type of cancer, it is important to stage it as it allows the oncologist to go for the best possible treatment and also understand what chances of cure or remission are there. The same is also true for lymph node cancer, which is staged based on the test and imaging results.
Lymph node cancer is of 2 types, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. When checking the imaging results, the oncologist will label the Hodgkin lymphoma as bulky or non-bulky. The former means that the malignant tumor is big; while the latter means that it is small in size. It goes without saying that prognosis for non-bulky tumors is better compared to bulky tumors. (See Reference 1)
When it comes to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there is a complex system of classification in place. This system takes into consideration the microscopic look of the tumor, the location, genetic features as well as molecular features, and then classifies it as low grade, intermediate grade or high grade. (See Reference 1)
The stages of lymph node cancer for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are the same.
Stage I: This is the earliest stage of the malignancy and generally the cancer is restricted to just one node or one area of the body. At times, the malignancy can be present in the organ that is located just outside the lymph node. (See Reference 1)
Stage II: This is the stage where the malignancy has spread to two or more nodes in the same region. The cancer could be also present in a nearby organ or tissue. Generally, the malignancy will be restricted to one side of the diaphragm. (See Reference 1)
Stage III: In this stage, the cancer has advanced and is found on both sides of the diaphragm. (See Reference 1) The malignancy could be present in a lymph node, tissue or organ.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of lymph node cancer where the malignancy has spread beyond the lymph nodes and spleen to other organs, like the bone, CNS or bone marrow.
Lymph node cancer is further classified with the help of letters A, B, E and S. Letter A means that the person is not showing symptoms of weight loss and/or fever, while B means that symptoms are present. Letter E means that the malignancy has metastasized from the lymph node to an organ. When the spleen is also detected with cancer, then the letter S is used. (See Reference 1)
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