Oral cancer is a serious condition that can affect the floor of the mouth, cheek lining, gingiva, lips or palate. If caught early, oral cancer has a relatively high survival rate. There are two different ways of staging cancer the TNM system and the number system.
Today we will explore the number system of mouth and oropharyngeal cancers.
Stage 0 or Carcinoma in situ (CIS)
Individuals suffering from CIS or stage 0 cancer of the mouth or oropharynx are experiencing a very early stage cancer. Some doctors will call this pre cancer. In this stage cancer cells are present but all contained within the lining of the mouth or oropharaynx. This is the “best” case scenario as the cells have not spread or become a “true cancer”. If pre cancer is not treated, there is a high chance that this condition could develop into a invasive cancer.
This is the earliest stage of invasive cancer. Cancer cells have begun to spread through the lining of the mouth or oropharynx into the deeper tissue beneath. The cancer is no more than 2 cm across and has not spread to lymph nodes, tissues and other organs.
Similar to stage 1, stage 2 cancer means that the tumor has grown larger than 2 cm across, but less than 4 cm. The cancer has still not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
Stage 3 cancer means that the cancer has either grown bigger than 4cm but has not spread to the lymph nodes or the tumour is any size but has spread to other parts of the body.
The most advanced stage of oral cancer, stage 4 is divided into 3 stages.
Stage 4a: The cancer has spread through the tissues around the lips and mouth. Lymph nodes may not contain the cancer cells.
Stage 4b: The cancer is any size and has spread to multiple lymphnodes on the neck.
Stage 4c: The cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body such as lungs or bones.