Stages of Cervical Cancer

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What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer Stages

Stages & Their Outcomes:

Once cervical cancer has been diagnosed the stage needs to be determined. A stage reveals how much the cancer has progressed. There are four cervical cancer stages, beginning with stage I. Stage I indicates early cervical cancer, while stage 4 indicates advanced cervical cancer. The stage at diagnosis is one factor that determines the treatment options available.


Stage I

Cancerous cells have invaded the cervix and are no longer confined to the surface of the cervix, but have not spread beyond the cervix or to other parts of the body.  


There are two sub-stages in Stage I, stages IA and IB.


IA: The cancer is in such an early stage that it can only be seen with a microscope.

IB: The cancer has spread deeper than 5 millimeters (mm) into the tissue of the cervix, or is wider than 7 mm.


By this point, the cancer can generally be seen with the naked eye.


At Stage I, cervical cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Often, a combination of all three therapies will be used. In Stage IA, the tumor can usually be removed surgically without further treatment. If the tumor has spread more deeply into the cervix, as in Stage IB, your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy, or removal of the entire uterus.


During surgery, it may become clear that the cancer has spread farther than your doctor initially thought. If that is the case, more tissues, including lymph nodes in the pelvis, will need to be removed. Additionally, radiation (often given with chemotherapy) may be required after surgery.


Depending on whether a woman wants to have children in the future, a radical trachelectomy may be performed instead of a hysterectomy in some instances of stage I cervical cancer. In a radical trachelectomy, the surgeon removes the cervix, part of the vagina, and the pelvic lymph nodes while leaving the uterus in place. This is generally only an option if the primary tumor is small.


Stage II:

In this stage, the cancer has spread beyond the cervix, but is still contained within the pelvic area. Stage two is divided into two categories, IIA and IIB.


IIA: Cancer has spread to the upper two-thirds of the vagina, but has not invaded the tissue around the uterus.

IIB: The cancer has spread to the upper two-thirds of the vagina and the tissue around the uterus.


Chemotherapy with radiation is generally used to treat Stage II cervical cancer. Your doctor may also suggest a hysterectomy after chemotherapy and radiation are complete.


Stage III

Stage III cervical cancer has spread to the lower vagina or pelvic wall, and if the tumor grows large enough to block the ureters, the tubes that connect the kidneys and the bladder, the kidneys may not work properly.


Stage III is divided into two categories, IIIA and IIIB.


IIIA: The cancer has spread to lower third of the vagina and is confined in that area.

IIIB: The cancer has spread to pelvic wall. It may have grown large enough to block the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder, causing damage to the kidneys.

Chemotherapy and radiation are the treatment of choice for Stage III cervical cancer. Because the cancer has spread outside of the uterus, there is generally no role for hysterectomy at this stage and the focus shifts to systemic treatment — meaning treatment of your entire body — with chemotherapy.


Stage IV:

This is the final and most advanced stage of cervical cancer. The cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. Cancers in this stage have spread to other parts of the body such as the bone, liver, or brain.


Stage IV is divided into two stages, IVA and IVB.


IVA: In this stage, the cancer has spread to organs close to the cervix, like the bladder and rectum.

IVB: In IVB, the cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs.


Like Stage III, Stage IV treatment involves chemotherapy and radiation.

As with most cancers, a higher cervical cancer stage at the time of diagnosis correlates with lower odds of survival. According to theAmerican Cancer Society, the approximate five-year survival rate for Stage I is between 80 and 95 percent, while five-year survival is roughly 25 percent for those diagnosed at stage IV.


Keep in mind that a lot of research is being done on possible cervical cancer therapies. Whatever your cervical cancer stage, talk to your doctor in detail and ask about the latest treatment options available, including clinical trials of new drugs and drug combinations.


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