What Are the Stages of Eye Cancer?

“Staging” is the term oncologists use to define where eye cancer is located and how much it has spread. After the stage of eye cancer is determined, your physician can recommend a particular course of treatment.

Most cancer teams use the system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer, known as the TNM staging system.

T = Tumor: Where is the primary tumor and how large is it?

N = Nodes: Has the tumor spread to nearby lymph nodes?

M = Metastasis: Has cancer spread to other parts of the body?

For each letter, there are five numbered stages, from zero to four, depending on how much the cancer has spread. The lower the number, the more the cancer cells look like normal cells and the easier they are to treat and cure. A higher number means it has spread more.

The place where cancer forms is called the primary site. Cancer can spread from the primary site to other parts of the body. It’s important to understand that even if eye cancer is found in other parts of your body, it’s still considered eye cancer. For instance, if eye cancer has spread to the liver, it’s called metastatic eye cancer, not liver cancer.

Be sure to talk to your physician about your stage of cancer and how that will impact your treatment.