The stage of a cancer describes the size of a tumour and how far it has spread from where it originated. The grade describes the appearance of the cancerous cells.

There are 2 main types of staging systems used for different types of cancer.

The number stages are: stage 0 – the cancer is where it started (in situ) and hasn't spread stage 1 – the cancer is small and hasn't spread anywhere else

stage 2 – the cancer has grown, but hasn't spread stage 3 – the cancer is larger and may have spread to the surrounding tissues and/or the lymph nodes (or "glands", part of the immune system)

stage 4 – the cancer has spread from where it started to at least 1 other body organ, also known as "secondary" or "metastatic" cancer

TNM staging system The TNM system uses letters and numbers to describe the cancer. This system is used in different ways depending on the kind of cancer you have.

For the TNM system: T describes the size of the tumour, with numbers 1 to 4 (1 for small, 4 for large) N stands for lymph nodes, with numbers 0 to 3 (0 means no lymph nodes have cancer, 3 means many do)

M stands for metastases or whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body, with numbers 0 or 1 (0 means it has not spread, 1 means it has)