Colon Cancer Home > Rectal Cancer Stages

Once a person has been diagnosed with rectal cancer, the doctor needs to determine the stage of the cancer, or how far it has progressed. There are six rectal cancer stages: stages 0-IV and recurrent cancer. In the case of rectal cancer, stages I, II, III, and IV are also referred to as Dukes' A, B, C, and D rectal cancer, respectively. Tests used to determine the stage of rectal cancer include digital rectal exams, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

An Overview of Rectal Cancer Stages

If a biopsy shows that rectal cancer is present, the doctor needs to determine the stage of the cancer (how far it has progressed) to plan the best treatment. Rectal cancer stages are based on whether the tumor has invaded nearby tissues, whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body.


Tests and Procedures Used to Stage Rectal Cancer

Certain tests and procedures may be performed in order to stage (classify by progression) rectal cancer, including:
Digital Rectal Exam
A digital rectal exam is an exam of the rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
CT Scan
In a CT scan, an x-ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the rectum. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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