Neuroendocrine Tumor: Stages

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

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

Staging is a way of describing where a cancerous 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 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.

There is no standard staging system for a neuroendocrine tumor. The stages used to describe a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor are the same as the stages for pancreatic cancer. The following staging system is commonly used for Merkel cell cancer.

Cancer stage groupings for Merkel cell cancer

Stage I: The primary tumor is 2 centimeters (cm) or smaller at its widest part. The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. Lymph nodes are tiny, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection.

Stage IIA and IIB: The tumor is larger than 2 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Stage IIC: The tumor has spread to nearby bone, muscle, connective tissue, or cartilage but not to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.

Stage III: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and may have spread to nearby bone, muscle, connective tissue, or cartilage.

Stage IV: The tumor has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, bone, or brain.

Recurrent: Recurrent cancer is cancer that has come back after treatment. If the cancer 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.

Source: National Cancer Institute.

Information about the cancer’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.