The severity of a cancer is defined by progressive stages. The cancer staging system is used universally and was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and the International Union Against Cancer. The stages of rectal cancer are as follows:
- Cancer is limited to the rectum’s innermost lining and has not spread. This earliest stage is also referred to as carcinoma in situ.
- Cancer has spread through the rectum’s middle lining, but has not spread beyond the wall of the rectum.
- Cancer has spread through the rectal wall, but not to any nearby lymph nodes.
- Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but has not spread beyond that.
- Cancer has spread distant sites within the body, possibly to the lungs, liver, abdominal lining or ovaries.
- Recurrent rectal cancer occurs following prior cancer treatment in the rectum, colon or other parts of the body