Head & Neck Cancer

Staging & Prognosis of Head & Neck Cancer

The TNM staging system (version 7) is most frequently used to describe the stage of head and neck cancers. T (stands for Tumour) is categorised 1-4 based mainly in size. N (stands for lymph Node) is categorised 1-3 based on size and extent of lymph node spread. M (stands of metastases) whether present or absent.

  • T1 < 2 cm
  • T2 > 2 to 4 cm
  • T3 > 4 cm
  • T4 Tumour involves adjacent structures ; T4a Operable disease; T4b Inoperable disease
  • N0 No lymphadenopathy
  • N1 Ipsilateral single node < 3 cm
  • N2 (a) Ipsilateral single node > 3 to 6 cm; (b) Ipsilateral multiple nodes < 6 cm; (c) Bilateral or contralateral nodes < 6 cm
  • N3 Nodes > 6 cm

Prognosis for head and neck cancers depends on the extent of spread as above. For small (T1) tumours of favourable site such as larynx, cure rates can approach 95%. For larger tumours and those with lymph node spread, survival rates of 60-70% are anticipated.

For very advanced tumours or those with extensive spread, the survival rates may be very poor with cure rates below 30%. It is important to discuss these issues with your cancer specialist who can give you estimates of success rates based on the medical research literature.

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