Neuroendocrine Tumors: Stages

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2022

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

What is tumor staging?

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. "Stage" and "grade" may be discussed at the same time when neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are being discussed, but they are very different elements in understanding the risk a tumor poses to a person. This section covers staging for NETs.

Doctors use diagnostic tests to find out the cancer’s stage, so staging may not be complete until all of the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor recommend the best kind of treatment, and it can help predict a patient’s prognosis, which is the chance of recovery. There are different stage descriptions for different types of NETs.

Staging systems for NETs

NETs of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and pancreas have their own staging systems based on the location and characteristics of the tumor. Some NETs use the staging system for other cancers. For example, the staging of a lung NET is the same as the staging of non-small cell lung cancer. These staging systems are created by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC).

Detailed information about the staging for a specific type of NET can be found in each specific NET section. See the Introduction for a list of those NETs.

In general, a lower number stage is linked with a better outcome. However, no doctor can predict how long a patient will live with a NET based only on the stage of disease. Many factors are involved and your doctor will talk with you about your prognosis.

Recurrent NETs

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

The next section in this guide is Grades. It explains the system doctors use to describe how fast the tumor cells are growing and dividing. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.