Doctors use stages to categorize the size and severity of each patient’s condition to determine the best treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, these are the stages of oral cavity cancer:
- Stage I – Cancer tumor is two centimeters or smaller.
- Stage II – Tumor is between two and four centimeters.
- Stage III – Tumor is larger than four centimeters, or a tumor of any size has spread to one lymph node (three centimeters or smaller) on the same side of the neck
- Stage IV – Divided into three sub-stages:
- Stage IVA – cancer has spread to surrounding oral cavity tissue or bone and lymph nodes (not larger than six centimeters)
- Stage IVB – any size tumor and spread to lymph nodes (larger than six centimeters); or spread further into surrounding muscle, bone, base of skull, and/or carotid artery.
- Stage IVC – tumor spread beyond oral cavity and lip to distant parts of the body (lungs for example). Any size tumor and may have spread to the lymph nodes.