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Bowel cancer health centre

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Staging and grading bowel cancer

As part of a diagnosis of bowel cancer, specialists will assess how advanced the cancer is and how far it has spread. This process is called staging.

A further assessment is made of how aggressive the cancer is, and how likely it is to spread. This is called grading.

The cancer specialist will explain what the staging and grading means for the outlook for a person's bowel cancer.

These assessments are important for deciding on the best treatment approach.

Stages of bowel cancer

The basic stages of bowel cancer are:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is contained inside the bowel or rectum lining.
  • Stage 2: The cancer has spread beyond the muscle around the bowel.
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread into lymph nodes nearest to the bowel.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread to another part of the body.

Grading bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is divided into three grades:

  • Grade 1: Slow growing cancer with a low risk of spreading outside the bowel.
  • Grade 2: Moderate growing cancer with a medium risk of spreading outside the bowel.
  • Grade 3: Rapid growing cancer with a high risk of spreading outside the bowel.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 11, 2016

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