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What does "staging" mean?

Q. I've heard the term "staging" from my doctor. What does it mean?

A. The stage describes the extent of cancer in the body. Staging is the process of finding out how far a cancer has spread from the place it started. Staging is based on the results of the physical exam, biopsy, and imaging tests (such as ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, chest x-ray, and/or PET scans).

Cancers are ranked by doctors from the least to the most serious stage on a scale of 0 to 4 using Roman numerals (0, I, II, III, IV). Stage 0 is the least serious. In this stage the cancer is confined to the place it first started. Stage IV is the most serious. This is when the cancer has spread from where it started to other parts of the body.

The stage of a cancer is one of the most important factors in determining outcomes and treatment options. Ask your doctor to explain your cancer stage and what it means for you.

Para solicitar información en español, llame al 1-800-ACS-2345. Un especialista en información sobre el cáncer le asistirá en español.