Staging the bowel cancer to see how far it has spread

If you've had an operation, the laboratory examines the tumour and surrounding tissue to assess the stage (size and extent) of the cancer, and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, such as the liver. With this information, the doctor decides if further treatment is needed. This can be an anxious time, as it may take a week or two for your results to come back.
For more information about managing these feelings, read the Cancer Society’s information sheet Coping with waiting. You can get a copy by phoning the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) or by contacting your local Cancer Society office. You can also download a copy here.

Stages of bowel cancer


Stage 1: The tumour is still confined to the inner lining of the bowel.
Stage 2: The tumour has spread to the outer layers of the bowel wall.
Stage 3: The tumour has spread to lymph nodes next to the bowel cancer.
Stage 4: The cancer cells have spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.