What is a tumor grade?

Tumor grading is different from staging.

A tumor grade is the classification system used to determine the abnormality of the cancer cells and the speed at which the cells are likely to grow and spread. Staging determines the severity of the cancer by examining the body to see if and where the disease has metastasized (spread).

Both tumor grading and staging, however, are used to predict a patient’s diagnosis and to develop treatment plans.

The process of determining a tumor grade begins with a biopsy, when part or all of a tumor is removed.

A pathologist examines the tissue by looking at the structure and growth pattern of the cells and verifies if the tumor is malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).

According to the National Cancer Institute, differentiation is how much the tumor cells resemble normal cells, and nuclear grade is the size and shape of the tumor cells’ nucleus and percentage of the tumor cells that are dividing.

The tumors are then described in degrees, the lowest number, a G1 or Grade 1, being the least aggressive or well-differentiated. A G4 would be undifferentiated and a more aggressive type of tumor. The systems for grading are different depending on the type of cancer.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Factsheet: Tumor Grade – NCI , cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/tumor-grade

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.