What Is Stage 1 Throat Cancer?

What is Stage 1 throat cancer?

Stage 1 throat cancer can be used to refer to either stage 1 hypopharyngeal or stage 1 oropharyngeal cancer. They are both scenarios where the cancerous tumor has not spread to the lymph nodes, and the cancer has not metastasized to any distant parts of the body. In stage 1 throat cancer, the tumors are smaller than 2 cms in size.

Illustration of stage 1 throat cancer with anatomy

Stage 1 throat cancer in terms of TNM staging (T1 | N0 | M0)

Throat cancer is staged according to the TNM system, developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). TNM staging principles are based on the following three factors:

  • T – This represents the size of the main tumor, and indicates how far the tumor has grown inside the throat and in nearby tissue areas.
  • N – This represents the spread of the cancer into nearby lymph nodes, and determines the number and size of the affected lymph nodes.
  • M – This represents the status of metastasis (spread) to distant organs in the body (commonly: the lungs, liver or bones)

Once the T, N and M aspects of the disease have been established via the right diagnostic systems of throat cancer, the information is consolidated to form a group stage for the grade of hypopharyngeal cancer that a specific patient exhibits. This is called the clinical stage of the disease.

T1 (Small sized tumor) explained

In stage 1 throat cancer, the tumor is limited to either one segment of the hypopharynx or contained within the epithelium (the top layer of the cellular lining of the oropharynx). The tumor has not grown inside deeper layers within the throat.

T1 tumors are also less than or equal to 2 cms in size.

N0 + M0

In stage 1 throat cancer, there is no lymph node involvement and there are no signs of regional or distant metastasis.

Stage 1 throat cancer is considered highly curable when treated with surgery, assisted with adjuvant or neoadjuvant radiation therapy.

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