Essential TNM: a registry tool to reduce gaps in cancer staging information

Lancet Oncol. 2019 Feb;20(2):e103-e111. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30897-0.


Accurate information on the extent of disease around the time of diagnosis is an important component of cancer care, in defining disease prognosis, and evaluating national and international cancer control policies. However, the collection of stage data by population-based cancer registries remains a challenge in both high-income and low and middle-income countries. We emphasise the lack of availability and comparability of staging information in many population-based cancer registries and propose Essential TNM, a simplified staging system for cancer registries when information on full Tumour, Node, Metastasis (TNM) is absent. Essential TNM aims at staging cancer in its most advanced disease form by summarising the extent of disease in the order of distant metastasis (M), regional lymph node involvement (N), and tumour size or extension, or both (T). Flowcharts and rules have been developed for coding these elements in breast, cervix, prostate, and colon cancers, and combining them into stage groups (I-IV) that correspond to those obtained by full TNM staging. Essential TNM is comparable to the Union for International Cancer Control TNM stage groups and is an alternative to providing staging information by the population-based cancer registries that complies with the objectives of the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging / standards*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Registries*