Anal Cancer: Stages

March 21, 2017

Anal Cancer: Stages

What does stage of cancer mean?

The stage of a cancer is how much and how far the cancer has spread in your body. Your healthcare provider uses exams and tests to find out the size of the cancer and where it is. He or she can also see if the cancer has grown into nearby areas, and if it has spread to other parts of your body. The stage of a cancer is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer.

What are the stages of anal cancer?

The TNM system is a standard system for describing the extent of a cancer’s growth. This system was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer and the International Union Against Cancer. It is the most common system used to stage anal cancer. Here’s what the letters stand for in the TNM system:

  • T(tumor) refers to the size of the tumor in the anus and whether or not it has invaded nearby organs.

  • N(node) refers to whether the lymph nodes in the area of the anus have cancer cells in them.

  • M(metastasis) refers to whether the cancer has spread to other, distant organs in the body. These can include your bones, liver, or lungs.

Stage groupings of anal cancer

Once your T, N, and M stages have been determined, this information is put together in what is called stage grouping. This is used to figure out your overall disease stage. Stage grouping uses Roman numerals going from 0 (the earliest stage) to IV (the most advanced stage):

Stage 0:

  • The cancer is only found in the top layer of the lining of anal tissue. This stage is sometimes called anal carcinoma in situ or Bowen disease.

Stage I:

  • The cancer has spread beyond the top layer of anal tissue, but is less than 2 centimeters (about 1 inch) in diameter.

  • It has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.

Stage II:

  • The cancer is more than 2 centimeters in diameter, but it has still not spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes.

Stage III:

  • The cancer can be any size and has spread to lymph nodes in your rectum, groin, or abdomen. Or it may have spread to nearby organs, such as your vagina or bladder.

  • It has not spread to distant organs.

Stage IV:

  • The cancer can be any size. It has spread to distant organs in other parts of your body.

Talking with your healthcare provider

Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Make sure to ask any questions or talk about your concerns.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Gersten, Todd, MD,Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS