Soft Tissue Sarcoma: Stages

What does stage of a 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 soft tissue sarcoma?

Soft tissue sarcomas are usually staged with the American Joint Committee of Cancer (AJCC) TNM staging system. This system is based on four pieces of information about the cancer. These include the following:

  • T describes the size of the main tumor.

  • N describes whether or not the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

  • M denotes if the cancer has spread (metastasized) to distant parts of the body.

  • G is the grade of the cancer. This is a measure of how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread. It’s based on how the cancer cells look under the microscope. Higher grade cancers are more likely to grow and spread quickly.

These four factors are combined to give the sarcoma an overall stage.

Stage IA

The main tumor is 5 centimeters (cm) or 2 inches across or less. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. It’s either low grade (G1) or the grade isn’t known (GX).

Stage IB

The main tumor is larger than 5 cm across. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. It’s either G1 or the grade isn’t known.

Stage IIA

The main tumor is 5 cm across or less. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. It’s a higher grade (G2 or G3).

Stage IIB

The main tumor is larger than 5 cm across. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. It has a grade of G2.

Stage III

One of the following applies:

  • The main tumor is larger than 5 cm across. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. It has a grade of G3.

  • The main tumor can be any size and any grade. The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. But it has not spread to far parts of the body.

Stage IV

The main tumor can be any size and any grade. It may or may not have reached nearby lymph nodes. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs.

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.