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Understanding Lymphoma Stages

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Updated April 09, 2014

What Is Staging?:

The bigger your disease and the more it has spread, the worse the outcome will be. Staging is a system of categorizing an individual's disease into one of four groups or "stages," which give a general idea of how far the disease has spread and how it should be treated. This is done after a series of tests are conducted to determine which parts of your body are affected by lymphoma.

Stage I:

The disease is present in only one group of lymph nodes, or, more rarely, in a single organ that does not belong to the lymph system.

Stage II:

Cancer is found in two or more groups of lymph nodes on the same side as the diaphragm. (The diaphragm is a thin muscle below the lungs that helps in breathing and separates your chest from the abdomen). In addition, an organ not in the lymph system may be involved close to the involved nodes.

Stage III:

The disease is present in lymph node groups on both sides of the diaphragm, occasionally with the involvement of other adjacent organs. If the spleen is involved then the disease becomes stage III as well.

Stage IV:

Once the liver, the bone marrow or the lung substance becomes involved, the disease is in stage IV. The same is true if other organs are involved far away from involved nodes.

What do the Letters A and B Stand For?:

You will often find some additional alphabets used with the stage to describe the lymphoma. The most important ones are A and B. Often, patients may complain of fever, weight-loss, or excessive night sweats. If any of these symptoms (called 'B' symptoms) are present, a 'B' is added to their stage description. If none of these symptoms exist, an 'A' is added. Those with B-symptoms may have worse results than those who don't.

And What Are E and S?:

If any organ that does not belong to the lymph system is involved, it is denoted with an 'E' after the stage. 'E' denotes extralymphatic organ involvement. If the spleen is involved, the corresponding letter is 'S'.

Does Advanced-Stage Disease Always Have a Poor Outcome?:

The disease stage is an important parameter for success or failure, but many patients with advanced stage lymphoma are cured. A number of sub-types of lymphoma have good results with treatment even in advanced stage disease. Often, other factors like your age or the size of your disease are equally important for prognosis. Your doctor is the person best suited to guide you regarding your chances of success or failure.

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