Cancer Stage: Why it Matters

In this week’s episode, I am joined by Dr. Brian Burnette and Dr. Michael Guiou to discuss the importance of cancer staging. We delve into cancer staging and how it helps guide treatment decisions. We also explore the evolving nature of cancer staging, shifting towards considering molecular characteristics and functional status in addition to traditional staging systems.


Dr. Brian Burnett: A native of Upper Michigan, Dr. Burnette completed his internship, residency, and fellowship at the Mayo Clinic after graduating at the top of his class from Michigan State. Most recently, he served as Instructor of Medicine at Mayo. He is well-published and lectures internationally on cancer-related topics. Dr. Burnette treats all cancer types and is excited to serve the people of Green Bay and the surrounding areas.

Dr. Michael Guiou was born in Sacramento, California; with his father’s career in the Air Force, he grew up across several states. He attended the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento and completed a residency at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Guiou loves the kind and caring culture of the Midwest, a trait he found was often lacking in bigger cities where he lived. Dr. Guiou has always wanted to help people and considers it a privilege to care for the patients under his care.


“Stage is one piece of how we set our expectations for how the cancer is going to behave, how the cancer might do,
and what we can reasonably expect to achieve.”
~ Dr. Brian Burnette


This Week on Cancer Covered:

  • What is cancer staging, and why is it important in cancer treatment?
  • How does the cancer stage determine the treatment options for a patient?
  • Can Stage IV cancer be curable?
  • Are all Stage II cancers less severe than Stage III or IV cancers?
  • How do molecular characteristics and biology of a tumor affect cancer staging?
  • Is the stage the only factor that determines prognosis and treatment for cancer?
  • Why does the staging process take time, and how does it affect patients’ anxiety?
  • How can patients and their families have productive conversations with doctors about the cancer stage?


Resources Mentioned:

  • AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) – A staging system used for cancer that divides tumors into early, intermediate, or late-stage disease.
  • TNM staging system – A classic tumor-lymph node-metastasis staging system used for many cancers.
  • 8th edition of the AJCC staging system – The most recent edition of the staging system, with a 9th edition expected to be released in the next year or two.
    p16 mutation – A mutation that can affect the stage and behavior of certain cancers, such as head and neck cancer.
  • Functional status – A patient’s overall health and ability to function can be a better predictor of survival than Stage IV solid tumors.



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