What does stage and grade mean?

Once a diagnosis of cancer has been made, the cancer is given a grade and a stage. This information helps you and your doctor choose the best treatment for you.


  • GRADE describes how the cancer cells look and behave compared to normal cells. Kidney cancer can be given a grade from 1 to 4. The lower the number, the lower the grade. Knowing the grade gives your healthcare team an idea of how quickly the cancer may be growing and how likely it is to spread. Lower grade cancer cells tend to be slow growing and are less likely to spread.


  • STAGE describes the tumour size and if it has spread. For kidney cancer, there are 4 stages. Each stage is given a number from 1 to 4. Generally, the higher the number, the more the cancer has spread. Early stage kidney cancer is stages 1, 2 and 3. Stage 4 kidney cancer is not early stage kidney cancer.


What each stage means


The tumour is fairly small, 7 cm or smaller, that has not spread beyond the kidney.

The tumour is larger than 7 cm that has not spread beyond the kidney.

The tumour has grown beyond the kidney (e.g., to the fatty tissue that surrounds the kidney) and/or cancer cells have entered 1 lymph node or veins that drain the kidney.

Cancer cells have spread to other organs (e.g. lungs, liver, bone) and/or cancer cells have spread to multiple (2 or more) lymph nodes. This stage is called metastatic kidney cancer and presence of kidney cancer in other organs or parts of the body are called metastases.

Kidney Cancer Canada