Arizona Oncology - The US Oncology Network

Disease and Drug Information

Head & Neck Cancer Staging

If you have either head cancer or neck cancer, your oncologist will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Staging may involve one or more of the following:

  • An examination under anesthesia (in an operating room)
  • X-rays and other imaging procedures
  • Laboratory tests.

The stage describes the growth or spread of the cancer in the place it started. It also tells if the cancer has spread to other organs of your body that are close by or farther away. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan the best treatment for your specific case of neck or head cancer.

Your cancer can be stage 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, like stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread from where it started. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.

Questions to ask the doctor:

  • Do you know the stage of the cancer?
  • If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
  • Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
  • Based on the stage of the cancer, how long do you think I’ll live?
  • What will happen next?
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