SEER Logo

SEER Training Modules

Why Staging?

Just imagine that every one of us spoke a different language! We wouldn't be able to understand each other and nothing could be communicated or be done. The importance of staging lies in the fact that it provides medical professionals with an excellent tool of communication about a disease so that they can describe it better and then do something about it. With such a common language, physicians, surgeons, pathologists, radiation therapists, oncologists, cancer researchers, and medical practitioners in other specialized fields can communicate effectively about cancer and find ways to prevent and treat the disease.

In the form of coded format that is easily understood universally, staging standardizes cancer data into categories which can be compared locally, nationally, and internationally. The exchange of standardized data between cancer researchers facilitates the continuing investigation, ("research") of cancer. The comparison of treatment results of cancer becomes meaningful only if it is based on a common criteria for extent of disease.

Cancer treatment decisions are influenced, in part, according to the stage of disease, since it is important for the medical practitioner to adequately assess the extent of cancer in order to treat the disease in the most appropriate manner. Based on a detailed knowledge of the extent of the disease, cancer specialists can make recommendations about the chances of being cured by surgery alone, the type of surgery that will give the patient the best possible outcome, or additional treatments (radiation, hormone or chemotherapy).

Staging is also used to indicate prognosis or survival. Data from historical sources can provide an estimate of the expected survival rate for a particular cancer with a corresponding extent of disease. In addition to stage, histology, grade of the tumor, age, sex, race, and the efficacy of therapy play a part in determining the patient's prognosis and quality of survival.

As an important component of cancer statistics, staging also plays an important role in the evaluation of screening programs.

Information obtained from the entire health information record is to be used to accurately assign a stage for a cancer case.