The Stages of Neuroendocrine Cancer of the GI Tract

The risk of your cancer spreading (metastasizing) is directly related to the size of your tumor. The term stage refers to the extent the tumor has spread. The stage is important in determining the likelihood of cure with treatment.

Small tumors are much more likely to have spread and have a higher likelihood of cure with treatment. Your surgeon will assign a stage to your cancer, but this often occurs after your surgery when the pathology results are available.

Cancer is described with a system of Roman numerals to detail the progression of cancer. Your physician will assign a stage according to the specific involvement of your cancer, which will help guide your treatment.

Cancer is staged in two ways. The clinical stage is your physician’s best understanding of the progression of your disease, based on these results:

  • Physical exam
  • Lab tests
  • Imaging studies

If you’ve had a biopsy, your pathologist can assess the pathological stage of your cancer, which may show that your cancer has spread more than first believed.

Cancer spreads throughout your body in three ways:

  • Invades surrounding healthy tissue
  • Invades your lymph system and travels to other parts of your body
  • Invades your blood and travels through your veins and capillaries to other parts of your body

To determine if cancer has spread, your physician may order one or more of the following tests:

  • CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Bone scan

Recurrent cancer is cancer that has returned (recurred) after treatment. It may come back in some other part of your body. You may need a combination of treatments to manage recurrent cancer.

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Carcinoid Tumors of the GI Tract

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no standard staging system for carcinoid tumors. Rather, tumors are treated based on their location and whether they can be removed by surgery:

  • Localized — Cancer is found in your appendix, colon, rectum, small intestine and/or stomach only.
  • Regional — Cancer has spread from appendix, colon, rectum, small intestine and/or stomach to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
  • Metastatic — Cancer has spread to other parts of your body.

Islet Cell Tumors of the Pancreas

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no standard staging system for islet cell tumors of the pancreas. Rather, tumors are treated based on their location:

  • Located in one area of the pancreas
  • Located in several areas of the pancreas
  • Has spread (metastasized) to the lymph nodes surrounding the pancreas or to other parts of your body, such as your liver, lungs, peritoneum or bone

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