Staging and prognosis for head and neck cancers

These tests help show whether you have a head and neck cancer and whether it has spread. Working out how far the cancer has spread is called staging. It helps your health care team recommend the best treatment for you.

In Australia, the TNM system is the method most often used for staging head and neck cancers. TNM stands for tumour–nodes–metastasis. In this system, each letter is assigned a number to describe the cancer.

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TNM staging system

T (tumour) 1–4

Indicates the size of the primary tumour. The higher the number, the larger the cancer.

N (nodes) 0–3

Shows if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. N0 means the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes; the more nodes affected, the higher the number.

M (metastasis) 0–1

Shows if the cancer has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body. M0 means the cancer has not spread; M1 means the cancer has spread.

Based on the TNM numbers, the doctor then works out the cancer’s overall stage (I–IV). Each head and neck cancer is staged slightly differently. In general, in stages I–II the cancer is small and hasn’t spread from the primary site (early head and neck cancer). In stages III–IV the cancer is larger and has spread to other parts of the body or the lymph nodes (advanced head and neck cancer). If you are finding it hard to understand staging, ask someone in your health care team to explain it in a way that makes sense to you.


Prognosis

Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of the disease. Instead, your doctor can give you an idea about the general prognosis for people with the same type and stage of cancer.

To work out your prognosis, your doctor will consider:

  • your test results
  • the type of head and neck cancer
  • the tumour’s HPV status
  • the rate and depth of tumour growth
  • the likelihood of response to treatment
  • other factors such as your age, level of fitness and overall health.

These factors will also help your doctor advise you on the best treatment options.

Usually the earlier head and neck cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome, but people with more advanced head and neck cancer may also respond well to treatment. Oropharyngeal cancers associated with HPV also tend to have better outcomes.


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  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

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  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
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Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in September 2019
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