Published by the Union for International Cancer Control, the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours is a globally recognised standard for classifying the extent of spread of cancer.
The classification of cancer by anatomic disease extent, i.e. stage, is the major determinant of appropriate treatment and prognosis. Stage is an increasingly important component of cancer surveillance and cancer control and an endpoint for the evaluation of the population-based screening and early detection efforts.
UICC has maintained and published the UICC TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours for over 70 years. The UICC TNM classification is the internationally accepted standard for cancer staging.
The TNM classification is an anatomically based system that records the primary and regional nodal extent of the tumour and the absence or presence of metastases.
Each individual aspect of TNM is termed as a category:
The TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours, 8th Edition, published in 2016 provides the latest, internationally agreed-upon standards to describe and categorize cancer stages and progression.
The UICC TNM staging system is the common language in which oncology health professionals can communicate on the cancer extent for individual patients as a basis for decision making on treatment management and individual prognosis but can also be used, to inform and evaluate treatment guidelines, national cancer planning and research.
More specifically, the objectives of the TNM classification are the following:
The TNM classification is a unified standard and is a prerequisite for ensuring the quality of care in all resource-settings. It goes beyond clinician practice and constitutes vital information for policy-makers developing or implementing cancer control and prevention plans and it is therefore important to include the TNM classification as part of cancer registration.
Please download the FAQ's page for answers to your questions on cancer staging. If you do not find the answer to your question, you can contact the TNM helpdesk:
Find out more how the TNM classification is defined and updated
Editions of the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours
eCancer and UICC jointly produced a set of 7 modules on TNM staging
Do you have questions on cancer staging?
Information on anatomical extent of disease at presentation or stage is central to cancer surveillance
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