Endocrine Tumor: Stages

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about how doctors describe a tumor’s growth or spread. This is called the stage. To see other pages, use the menu.

Staging is a way of describing where the tumor is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body. Doctors use diagnostic tests to find out the tumor's stage, so staging may not be complete until all of the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor to decide what kind of treatment is best and can help predict a patient's prognosis, which is the chance of recovery. There are different stage descriptions for different types of cancer.

TNM staging system

One tool that doctors use to describe the stage is the TNM system. Doctors use the results from diagnostic tests and scans to answer these questions:

  • Tumor (T): How large is the primary tumor? Where is it located?

  • Node (N): Has the tumor spread to the lymph nodes? If so, where and how many? 

  • Metastasis (M): Has the cancer metastasized to other parts of the body? If so, where and how much?

The results are combined to determine the stage of cancer for each person. There are 5 stages: stage 0 (zero) and stages I through IV (1 through 4). The stage provides a common way of describing the tumor, so doctors can work together to plan the best treatments.

Recurrent tumor

A recurrent tumor is a tumor that has come back after treatment. If it does return, there will be another round of tests to learn about the extent of the recurrence. These tests and scans are often similar to those done at the time of the original diagnosis.

For more information on the staging of specific endocrine tumors, see each individual tumor type.

Information about the tumor’s stage will help the doctor recommend a specific treatment plan. The next section in this guide is Treatment Options. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.