Once it is confirmed that you have cancer in your mouth, your oncologist will determine its stage. This may require surgery, or removal of some lymph nodes near the tumor for laboratory analysis. Staging the tumor is a very important step; it helps your physician not only to choose appropriate treatment but also to determine the prognosis.
The stage of an oral cancer is often defined by Roman numerals: stage I, stage II, stage III and stage IV. Higher is the stage, more aggressive is the cancer. In general, aggressive cancers have poor prognosis.
- carcinoma in situ– also called stage 0, carcinoma in situ indicates the genesis of cancer cells;
- Stage I – the tumor is in your mouth, but it is no larger than 2 cm;
- Stage II – the size of the tumor can be larger than 2 cm but no larger than 4 cm;
- Stage III – the t umor is larger than 4 cm, and can have spread to nearby tissue;
- Stage IV – the tumor has spread into inferior alveolar nerve, floor of mouth, or skin of the face, chin and/or nose.
- Recurrent – the cancer has returned after treatment.