Oral Cancer Stages

Last modified on June 24th, 2018

Oral Cancer Stages

If you are diagnosed with an oral cancer, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease.

Staging is a way of classifying cancer by how much disease is in the body and where it has spread when it is diagnosed. This information helps the doctor treat the cancer in the most appropriate way.

Disease stage is determined by a three-point “TNM” staging system:

  • The ‘T’ stage relates to the size of the primary tumour and how much it has invaded the tissues,
  • The ‘N’ stage relates to whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, and
  • The ‘M’ stage relates to distant spread elsewhere (usually the lungs).

Latest Oral Cancer Staging System – AJCC 8th Edition

T1 – Tumour less than or equals 2cm in size. Depth of invasion less than or equals 5mm

T2 – Tumour greater than 2cm or less than or equal to 4cm or depth of invasion greater than 5mm but less than 10mm deep

T3 – Tumour greater than 4cm or any tumour greater than 10mm deep

T4 a – Moderately advanced or very advanced – invading bone

T4 b – Invading masticator space , pterygoid plates, or skull base or encases the internal carotid artery

The size and number of lymph nodes involved as well as the presence of spread to nodes on the other side of neck informs the N stage – which goes from N0 – N3.