What are the N categories for colorectal cancer?

N categories indicate whether or not the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and, if so, how many lymph nodes are involved. To get an accurate idea about lymph node involvement, most doctors recommend that at least 12 lymph nodes be removed during surgery and looked at under a microscope.
Nx: No description of lymph node involvement is possible because of incomplete information.
N0: No cancer in nearby lymph nodes.
N1a: Cancer cells are found in 1 nearby lymph node.
N1b: Cancer cells are found in 2 to 3 nearby lymph nodes.
N1c: Small deposits of cancer cells are found in areas of fat near lymph nodes, but not in the lymph nodes themselves.
N2a: Cancer cells are found in 4 to 6 nearby lymph nodes.
N2b: Cancer cells are found in 7 or more nearby lymph nodes.

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