Tumor Staging for Head and Neck Cancer
The place where a cancer starts is called the PRIMARY site. From the primary site the cancer can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Regardless of where a cancer may spread, it is always named for the place it began. For instance, breast cancer that spreads to the liver is still called breast cancer.
Different types of cancer can behave very differently. They can grow at different rates and respond to different kinds of treatments. That is why people with cancer need treatment aimed at their particular type of cancer.
The most common type of cancer. These tumors arise from the cells that cover external and internal body surfaces. The most frequent cancers of this type are lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer.
These cancers arise from cells found in the supporting tissues of the body such as bone, cartilage, fat, connective tissue and muscle.
Cancers that arise in the lymph nodes and tissues of the body's immune system.
Cancers of the immature blood cells that grow in the bone marrow and tend to accumulate in large numbers in the bloodstream.
The most common tumor staging system is the American Joint Commission on Cancer system of TNM.
T representing tumor, N representing the nodes and M representing the presence of distant metastases. Accurate tumor staging usually requires an imaging study which can help the surgeon see how far the cancer has spread and what structures are involved.
The staging system below applies to most tumors of the head and neck involving the upper aero-digestive tract (sinus, nasal cavity, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx).
Nasopharynx, thyroid and esophageal cancer have their own staging systems.