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Colorectal cancer staging provides a uniform way for medical professionals to describe, evaluate and compare cancers of the colon and rectum. If a cancerous mass (adenomatous polyp or adenoma) is detected, a physician will usually order one or more tests to determine the stage, or extent, of the cancer. This is an important factor to consider when evaluating treatment options. With regard to a patient’s outcome, it is the aggressiveness of the cancer – in terms of its ability to grow, penetrate the lining of the colon and spread to the blood vessels and lymphatic system – rather than the size of the adenoma that is most influential.

Two systems are used to classify colorectal cancers: the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM System and the Modified Dukes Staging System. Both colorectal cancer staging systems take into account several key factors, including whether the cancer has:

  • Remained confined to the inner lining of the colon
  • Become embedded in the colon wall
  • Penetrated the colon wall
  • Spread to lymph nodes
  • Metastacized to other tissues or organs

The TNM System is generally considered to be more descriptive and precise, and therefore is more widely utilized than the Modified Dukes Staging System. An accurate assessment of the depth of tumor invasion (T), degree of lymph node involvement (N) and presence of distant metastases (M) is essential for determining the best stage-specific treatment.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, colorectal cancer staging is determined by a multispecialty team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other specialists. This highly collaborative tumor board evaluates staging information along with other factors to recommend an optimal treatment plan for each patient, then meets weekly to review the patient’s progress. In this way, Moffitt provides patients with the advantage of multiple expert opinions without the need for referrals. For added convenience, all diagnostic, treatment and supportive services are available in a single, easy-to-access location.

If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and would like to learn more about staging and treatment, the experts at Moffitt can help. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.