After cancer has been diagnosed, doctors ask the following three questions to determine how far the disease has progressed:
1. How large is the tumor, and how far has it invaded into surrounding tissues?
2. Have cancer cells spread to regional lymph nodes?
3. Has the cancer spread (metastasized) to other regions of the body?
Based on the answers to these questions, the cancer is assigned a "stage." A patient's chances for survival are better when cancer is detected at a lower stage number.