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Stage Capture

What is cancer stage?

Cancer stage refers to the extent of a cancer patient’s disease. For instance, a woman with advanced breast cancer may be classified as having Stage III or Stage IV breast cancer. Knowing a patient’s cancer stage is critical in determining a prognosis, and helps healthcare providers make informed treatment decisions. Staging information also helps improve the cancer system because it is used for planning and managing cancer services, and for evaluating, measuring and reporting on cancer treatment patterns and outcomes.

Components of cancer stage

Cancer staging is done both before and after cancer surgery:

  • Clinical stage is based on all of the information obtained before a surgery to remove a tumour, such as a physical examination, radiologic examination, endoscopy and biopsy.
  • Pathologic stage is based on a pathologist’s analysis of tissue samples from a surgery.

How do we capture stage data?

TNM staging comes from the American Joint Committee on Cancer and the International Union Against Cancer, and is the global standard used by clinicians to assess the extent or severity of cancer at diagnosis.

T stands for the size and extent of the tumour, N for the lymph nodes involved, and M for metastasis, or the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.

Cancer Care Ontario uses a collection method called collaborative staging to capture cancer stage data directly from patient records at regional cancer centres and community hospitals throughout Ontario. This method is consistent with the most common cancer staging coding system in the world, called TNM staging.

Historically, only regional cancer centres submitted TNM data to Cancer Care Ontario for those patients diagnosed and treated at those centres. The introduction and gradual expansion of collaborative staging within Cancer Care Ontario is meant to augment the process of reporting stage at diagnosis for all cancer patients in the province regardless of where they were seen.

Last modified: Thu, May 17, 2012
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