Staging is the process of finding out how far lymphoma has spread within the lymph system or to other parts of the body. This is very important because your treatment and prognosis (the outlook for your recovery) depend in large part on the stage of your cancer. Accurate staging allows doctors to choose the most appropriate therapy and can help you avoid ineffective therapy.
Stages of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
The same tests doctors use to diagnose non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are used to determine the type and stage. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are considered to be at one of four stages.
- Stage I: The lymphoma is in only one lymph-node area or one organ.
- Stage II: The lymphoma is in two or more lymph-node groups either above or below the diaphragm (the thin muscle below the lungs that separates the chest from the abdomen).
- Stage III: The lymphoma is in several lymph-node areas above and below the diaphragm.
- Stage IV: The lymphoma is widespread in the lymph nodes and other organs, such as the bone marrow, lungs, and liver.
Doctors may add a letter after your stage to describe more about your disease.
- E (such as “stage IIIE”) means that your cancer is extranodal (outside your lymph nodes).
- S (such as “stage IIIS”) means the cancer is found in the spleen.
There is no standard staging system for Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, a subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
If lymphoma comes back after treatment, it is called recurrent or relapsed. Your doctor will order imaging or other tests to restage it.
Typically lymphomas that are confined to one part of the body (localized) when found are easier to treat than those that have spread to other parts of the body (generalized).