The Top Two Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor When Diagnosed With Cancer

Cancer Misdiagnosis

When diagnosed with cancer, the most important question to ask your doctor is the grade and depth of the tumor.

You should ask your doctor about the “stage” of the cancer

Stage suggests the location of the tumor in relation to the original site of the tumor. The higher the stage the further the tumor has grown away from its original site. Generally, Stage 1 and 2 mean that the tumor has not penetrated far beyond its originating site on the body. Stage 3 means the tumor has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and Stage 4 means that the tumor has metastasized or spread to distant organs, i.e., lung cancer has spread to the brain or liver.

Tumors are categorized as superficial and muscle invasive. Invasive tumors grow down deep into the deep layers of tissue, while superficial tumors affect only the surface or lining of the part of the body where they originate.

You should ask your doctor about the grade of the cancer cells

The grade is an estimate of the speed of tumor growth as suggested by cell features seen under a microscope. Low-grade tumors (those that have cells that look nearly identical under the microscope) generally do not invade or spread. High-grade tumors, those that have cells that look very abnormal under the microscope, have an increased risk of invading and spreading. High-grade cancer is often a life-threatening disease.

Cancer cells are usually classed as a low, medium or high grade. The grade means how well developed the cell looks under a microscope. The more the cancer cell looks like a normal cell, the more it will behave like one. The more normal a cancer cell looks, the lower it’s grade. The more abnormal or less well developed a cancer cell looks, the higher it’s grade.

A low-grade cancer is likely to be less aggressive in its behavior than a high grade one. Knowing the grade can help the doctor predict how fast cancer will grow and spread.

Why you should ask about the grade and stage of the cancer

There is a strong correlation between tumor stage and tumor grade. Nearly all superficial tumors are low grade, while nearly all muscle-invasive tumors are high grade. If you have a superficial tumor with low-grade cancer cells, your five-year survival rate will be excellent, whereas if you have a muscle-invasive tumor with high-grade cancer cells, your survival rate will be significantly lower.

You should ask your doctor: Do I have a superficial or muscle invasive tumor? Are the cancer cells low or high grade? What is my five-year survival rate given the grade and stage of my cancer? What treatment options are available that will improve the chance for a cure?

The doctor will only be able to answer these questions after surgery when the tumor has been removed and a biopsy has been performed on the cancer cells and lymph nodes.

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