The process for continuous improvement of the TNM classification


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The TNM classification is a worldwide benchmark for reporting the extent of malignant disease and is a major prognostic factor in predicting the outcome of patients with cancer. The objectives for cancer staging were defined by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) TNM Committee almost 50 years ago and are still broadly applicable today. To keep pace with the modern demands of evidence-based practice, the UICC introduced a structured process for introducing changes to the TNM classification. The elements of the TNM process were determined to include the development of unambiguous criteria for the information and documentation required to consider changes in the classification, establishment of a well-defined process for the annual review of relevant literature, formation of site-specific expert panels, and the participation of experts from all over the world in the TNM review process. Communication between the oncology community and those involved in the TNM classification was established as being essential to the success of the process. The process, which was introduced in 2002, will be tested over the next 3–4 years and evaluated. In addition to the formal process, individual initiative, involvement by the national staging committees, and group consensus are required. Furthermore, increased involvement by the experts should improve the understanding and dissemination of the TNM classification. Cancer 2004;100:1–5. Published 2003 by the American Cancer Society.