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Stages of cancer

Working out how far the cancer has spread is called staging.  It helps your health care team recommend the best treatment for you.

If your cancer is in just one place, doctors may recommend a local treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy. This could be enough to treat the cancer completely. If it is found that the cancer has spread, you may need treatment that circulates throughout the whole body, such as chemotherapy.

It can be hard for doctors to be sure a cancer has spread to another part of the body or not, so they may look for cells in the lymph nodes close to the cancer.

If cancer cells are found in these nodes, it is a sign that the cancer has started to spread. This is often described as having ‘positive lymph nodes’. It means that the cells have broken away from the original caner and have been trapped in the lymph nodes. It isn’t always possible to tell if they have spread anywhere else.