What are the Grades and Stages of Upper Urinary Tract Cancer?

If cancer cells are found, your doctor will need to know the tumor grade and stage. Understanding these will help your health care team develop your treatment plan.


The grade tells how fast the tumor is likely to grow. The most widely used grading systems group tumors into 2 main grades: low and high.

  • Low-grade tumors grow more slowly. They often come back after treatment, but rarely get into the upper urinary tract wall. They also don't tend to spread to other parts of the body.
  • High-grade tumors grow more quickly. They often come back after treatment and are more likely to spread to other parts of the body.


Your doctor must also learn how deeply the tumor has gone into the collecting system wall. This is called "staging." Your doctor also wants to find out if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). In general, the higher the stage number, the more serious the cancer. Often the stage is not clearly defined until the tumor is removed and studied by a pathologist (an expert who looks for cancer cells in tissue samples).