Staging is a process that tells a doctor if the cancer has spread and if it has, how far. Staging for lip and oral cavity cancer depends on the location and extent of the tumor, and whether it has invaded any lymph nodes or nearby structures. Staging is an important step in evaluating prognosis and treatment options.
- “Carcinoma in-situ.” Abnormal, but non-invasive cells found in the top layer of tissue.
- Tumor is 2 cm or less in diameter.
- Tumor is greater than 2 cm but less than 4 cm in diameter.
- Tumor is greater than 4 cm in diameter.
- Cancer has spread to one lymph node on the same side of the neck, which is no greater than 3 cm in diameter.
Moderately advanced local disease
(Lip) – Tumor has grown through the hard, outer layer of nearby bone, the nerve that gives feeling to lower teeth, the floor of the mouth, or the skin of the face.
(Oral cavity) – Tumor has spread to adjacent structures such as the bone of the upper or lower jaw, the deep muscle of the tongue, the maxillary sinus, and/or the skin of the face.
Cancer has spread to:
- 1 lymph node on the same side of the neck, which is greater than 3 cm but no greater than 6 cm, or
- multiple lymph nodes on the same side of the neck, none of which are greater than 6 cm, or
- lymph nodes on opposite side or both sides of the neck, none of which are greater than 6 cm.
Very advanced local disease
- Tumor has spread to areas such as the masticator space (a hollow space near the base of the skull), the pterygoid plates (bones around the sinuses and eye socket), the skull base, and/or the tumor has surrounded the carotid artery.
- Cancer has spread to a lymph node that is greater than 6 cm in diameter.
- Cancer has spread to distant organs or parts of the body, most often the lungs, bones, liver, or mediastinal lymph nodes (lymph nodes between the lungs).