Free Cancer Report

Know Your Cancer

Grades of cancer

You can hear your doctor speak of your cancer grade. The grade of the tumour identifies a tumour as to how abnormal the tumour cells are relative to normal cells. It also explains how the tissues appear anomalous under a microscope.

The grade gives your doctor some insight as to how the cancer will act. A low-grade cancer is likely to develop more slowly and to spread less frequently than a high-grade one. Doctors are not sure precisely how the cells will behave. But the grade is a valuable parameter.

Common grading systems

Some cancer forms have their own grading schemes, but there are 3 grades in general:

Grade 1 cancer cells look very similar and grow gradually (low grade) to normal cells.

Grade 2 the cells do not look like regular cells, but grow faster than average (intermediate grade)

Grade 3 the cancer cells appear very abnormal and develop rapidly (high grade)

Some programs have grades higher than 3.

GX means doctors are unable to determine the grade. Often known as undetermined grade.


Another way to explain the cells is by how divided they are. Differentiation implies:

How well tumour cells are formed

How cancer cells in tumour tissue are structured

Since structures of cells and tissues are very similar to normal tissues the tumor is called well differentiated. Such tumors appear to develop gradually and propagate.

The cells appear very irregular on a poorly differentiated or undifferentiated tumour, and are not organized in the usual manner. While the usual tissue patterns and structures are absent. Such tumors may be more likely to spread to other areas of the body or adjacent tissues.

Cancer grade and treatments

Your treatment team looks at:

  • the grade and stage of the tumour
  • your age
  • your general health

This helps them assess the possible cancer outcome and decide on the appropriate treatment.

A lower-grade tumour appears to have a stronger outlook. More cancer of a higher grade will grow and spread faster. Typically it requires care that is quicker or more complex.

The grade is very significant for some types of cancer in treatment planning and the potential outcome. Among these are:

  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Primary brain tumours
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer