Cancer: What do the codes in the doctor’s letter mean?
There is an international system for the classification of cancerous tumors. Known as TNM classification, it helps doctors and researchers to describe cancers and compare the results of medical tests and examinations.
The abbreviation “TNM” stands for tumor (T), nodes (N), and metastases (M). “Nodes” indicates whether or not the tumor has spread into nearby (regional) lymph nodes. These are lymph nodes that are located in the drainage area of the affected organ. “Metastases” tells us whether or not the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, forming what is known as distant metastases. So this is what the three letters mean:
- T refers to the primary tumor (original tumor).
- N describes whether or not regional lymph nodes are affected.
- M describes whether or not distant metastases have been found.
The numbers after the letters indicate how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. The combination of letters and numbers describes the type of cancer, its size, characteristics and extent of spreading. Doctors often use this classification as a basis for making a prognosis and suggesting an individual treatment plan.