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The stages of carcinoid tumour

Men and women discussing carcinoid cancer

This page tells you about the stages of carcinoid.

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

The stages of carcinoid tumour

The stage of a cancer tells doctors how far it has grown or spread. This is important, as the stage and the location of the carcinoid often decide the treatment. Both stage and location help to inform you and your doctor about the likely risk of the carcinoid coming back after treatment.

There is no recognised staging system for carcinoids of the digestive system. So doctors generally divide them into 3 groups

  • Localised carcinoid – the carcinoid tumour has not spread through the wall of the organ it started in (for example, the bowel, stomach or appendix)
  • Regional carcinoid – the carcinoid has gone through the wall of the organ it developed in and is now in the surrounding tissue
  • Metastatic carcinoid – the carcinoid has spread to another part of the body from where it started, for example the liver or lungs

There are 4 main stages for carcinoid of the lung. We have explained them here in a simplified way

  • Stage 1 – The carcinoid is localised and smaller than 3cm
  • Stage 2 – The carcinoid is larger or has spread into the nearest lymph nodes or nearby tissues
  • Stage 3 – There is more than one tumour in the affected lung or the carcinoid has spread outside the lung but is still in the chest
  • Stage 4 – The carcinoid has spread to the other lung or another part of the body, for example the liver or bones

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating carcinoid section.

 

 

What staging is

The stage of a cancer tells doctors how far the cancer has grown or spread. This is important, as the stage and the position of the carcinoid in the body often decides the treatment. The tests and scans you had when diagnosing your carcinoid will give your doctor some information about the stage.

 

Staging for carcinoid of the digestive system

There is no recognised staging system for carcinoids of the digestive system. So doctors generally divide them into 3 groups

  • Localised carcinoid – the carcinoid tumour has not spread through the wall of the organ it started in (for example, the bowel, stomach or appendix) to anywhere else
  • Regional carcinoid – the carcinoid has gone through the wall of the organ it developed in and is now in the surrounding tissue, such as fat, muscle or lymph nodes
  • Metastatic carcinoid – the carcinoid has spread to another part of the body from where it started, for example the liver or lungs
 

Staging for carcinoid of the lung

There are 4 main stages for carcinoid tumours of the lung, which are described below. The scans and tests you have give your doctors some idea of the stage of your carcinoid. But sometimes it may not be possible to be completely sure until you have had an operation to remove part of the lung.

Stage 1

This means the carcinoid is localised and smaller than 3cm. There is no sign of cancer in the main airways, the membranes that surround the lung (pleura) or in any of the lymph nodes.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is divided into stages 2A and 2B. Stage 2A means the carcinoid is small, but has spread to the lymph nodes closest to the affected lung.

Stage 2B means either

  • The tumour in the lung is larger than 3cm across and there are carcinoid cells in the lymph nodes nearest to the affected lung
  • There is no carcinoid in the lymph nodes. But the cells have grown into the chest wall, outer covering of the lung (pleura), the muscle at the bottom of the chest cavity (the diaphragm) or the outer covering of the heart.

Stage 3

This is divided into stages 3A and 3B. 3A means one of the following

  • There are carcinoid cells in lymph nodes some distance away from the affected lung, but still on the same side of the chest
  • There are carcinoid cells in the nodes nearest to the affected lung and they have also spread to the chest wall,the covering of the lung (pleura), or the middle of the chest (mediastinum)
  • There is more than one tumour in the affected lobe of the lung
  • Tumours are present in different lobes of the same lung

Stage 3B cancer means either

  • The carcinoid cells have spread to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest or above either collarbone
  • The tumour has grown into another major structure in the chest (such as the heart, windpipe or a main blood vessel)

Stage 4

This means the carcinoid has spread to the other lung or to another part of your body, for example the liver or bones. 

Or carcinoid cells are found in the fluid around the lung (a malignant pleural effusion), or in the fluid around the heart (a malignant pericardial effusion).

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Updated: 20 June 2012