In general, when doctors talk about the stages of a cancer, they are referring to its size and how far it has spread—the lower the stage, the better the prognosis.
- Stage I: The cancer is only found in the kidney, and it is seven centimeters or less in diameter.
- Stage II: The cancer is found only in the kidney, but it is larger than seven centimeters in diameter.
- Stage III: The cancer is in the kidney and has spread to nearby lymph nodes (but not distant lymph nodes or organs); or the cancer has grown into the main blood vessels of the kidney or the vena cava, the large vein the kidneys drain into. In the latter case, the cancer may be growing into nearby tissue, but it has not spread to any lymph nodes or into the adrenal gland.
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread outside the Gerota’s Fascia, the connective tissue covering the kidney, and may also have spread to the adrenal gland or to the nearby lymph nodes (but not the distant lymph nodes or organs); or the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or organs, such as the bowels, pancreas or lungs.
- Recurrent: Recurrent kidney cancer occurs when the cancer comes back after treatment.
- Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ): The cancer is only found on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder.
- Stage I: The cancer cells are found deep in the inner lining of the bladder, but may not have spread to the bladder muscle.
- Stage II: The cancer cells have spread to the bladder’s muscle.
- Stage III: The cancer cells have spread through the bladder’s muscular wall to the layer of tissue surrounding the bladder; the cancer may also have spread to the prostate (in men) or the uterus or vagina (in women).
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread to the abdominal wall or to the pelvic wall, and cancer cells may have extended to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body far from the bladder, such as the lungs.