Most types of cancer are assigned a stage depending on tumor growth and whether or not the cancer has metastasized (spread to other organs in the body). However, staging of leukemia is different from that of other cancers. Some types of leukemia have no staging criteria, and those that do use different staging criteria than other cancers.
One of the key goals of cancer staging is to determine the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread through the body. However, in the case of leukemia, there is no need to do this. Because leukemia is a bone marrow cancer, it has already spread throughout the entire body via the bloodstream.
By the time leukemia is diagnosed, the disease has often spread to other organs (most commonly the lymph nodes, liver and spleen). Staging of leukemia, then, is less about the spread of cancer and more concerned with other elements of the disease.
Acute leukemia isn't classified in stages. Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is classified by the subtype of AML that affects the patient, and whether or not the cancer has spread from the blood and bone marrow to other parts of the body.
Adult acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is staged in three categories:
The staging of childhood ALL uses risk groups:
Chronic leukemia stages depend on the type of leukemia diagnosed. Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are staged in different ways.
CML is divided into three phases:
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia stages are usually classified using Rai stages in the United States. The Rai stages are:
In Europe, Binet staging is used to stage CLL. This system stages the disease by lymphatic tissue involvement.
Because of the different types of leukemia and accompanying staging methods, it’s difficult to generalize about leukemia final stages. Generally, the final stages of leukemia include:
Each type of leukemia responds to treatment differently and progresses at different rates. Individual response to treatment and disease progression are more useful prognostic indicators than classification systems.
American Cancer Society. (n.d.). How is leukemia staged? Retrieved March 12, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_leukemia_staged_62.asp.
Oncology Channel. (2009). Leukemia: Staging. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from http://www.oncologychannel.com/leukemias/staging.shtml.
Schoenstadt, A. (n.d.). Stages of leukemia. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from http://leukemia.emedtv.com/leukemia/stages-of-leukemia.html.
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions