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March 26, 2016
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1 Introduction
TNM classification



The TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours ( TNM ) is a cancer staging system that describes the extent of cancer in a patient???s body.

  • T describes the size of the tumour and whether it has invaded nearby tissue,

  • N describes regional lymph nodes that are involved,

  • M describes distant metastasis (spread of cancer from one body part to another).

The TNM staging system for all solid tumors was devised by Pierre Denoix between 1943 and 1952, using the size and extension of the primary tumor, its lymphatic involvement, and the presence of metastases to classify the progression of cancer.

TNM is developed and maintained by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) to achieve consensus on one globally recognised standard for classifying the extent of spread of cancer. The TNM classification is also used by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). In 1987, the UICC and AJCC staging systems were unified into a single staging system.

Most of the common tumors have their own TNM classification. Not all tumors have TNM classifications, e.g., there is no TNM classification for brain tumors.

The general outline for the TNM classification is below. The values in parentheses give a range of what can be used for all cancer types, but not all cancers use this full range.

Mandatory parameters ("T", "N", and "M")

  • T (a, CIS ,(0),1???4): size or direct extent of the primary tumor

  • N (0???3): degree of spread to regional lymph nodes

  • * N0: tumor cells absent from regional lymph nodes

  • * N1: regional lymph node metastasis present; (at some sites: tumor spread to closest or small number of regional lymph nodes)

  • * N2: tumor spread to an extent between N1 and N3 (N2 is not used at all sites)

  • * N3: tumor spread to more distant or numerous regional lymph nodes (N3 is not used at all sites)

  • * M0: no distant metastasis

  • * M1: metastasis to distant organs (beyond regional lymph nodes)

Use of an "X" instead of a number or other suffix means that the parameter was not assessed.

Other parameters

  • G (1???4): the grade of the cancer cells (i.e. they are "low grade" if they appear similar to normal cells, and "high grade" if they appear poorly differentiated )

  • R (0/1/2): the completeness of the operation ( resection -boundaries free of cancer cells or not)

  • L (0/1): invasion into lymphatic vessel s

  • V (0/1/2): invasion into vein (no, microscopic, macroscopic)

  • C (1???5): a modifier of the certainty (quality) of the last mentioned parameter

Prefix modifiers

  • c : stage given by clinical examination of a patient. The c-prefix is implicit in absence of the p-prefix

  • p : stage given by pathologic examination of a surgical specimen

  • y : stage assessed after neoadjuvant therapy

For the T, N and M parameters exist subclassifications for some cancer-types (e.g. T1a, Tis , N1i)

  • Small, low-grade cancer, no metastasis, no spread to regional lymph nodes, cancer completely removed, resection material seen by pathologist: pT1 pN0 M0 R0 G1; this grouping of T, N, and M would be considered Stage I.

  • Large, high grade cancer, with spread to regional lymph nodes and other organs, not completely removed, seen by pathologist: pT4 pN2 M1 R1 G3; this grouping of T, N, and M would be considered Stage IV. Most Stage I tumors are curable; most Stage IV tumors are inoperable.

Some of the aims for adopting a global standard are to:

  • Aid medical staff in staging the tumour helping to plan the treatment.

  • Assist in the evaluation of the results of treatment.

  • Enable facilities around the world to collate information more productively.

Since the number of combinations of categories is high, combinations are grouped to stages for better analysis.

The latest version of TNM is TNM7, published in October 2009 and set to take effect in January 2010.

  • Sobin LH, Gospodarowicz MK, Wittekind Ch. Eds. TNM Classification of Malignant Tumors, 7th ed. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford 2009. 310 pages. ISBN 978-1-4443-3241-4.

  • UICC site

  • TNM Cancer Staging System Database (information mostly outdated, from the 1997 edition of TNM)

  • TNM - Explanatory Notes

  • TNM Classification Help

  • TNM Staging for Iphone

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "TNM classification".

Last Modified:   2010-11-25

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