Understanding Your Stage of Cervical Cancer
Stage is the word doctors use to communicate the size of a cancerous tumor and where and how far it has spread. The first place cancer is found in the body is called the primary site or primary tumor. When a cancer spreads, it's said to have metastasized.
How Cervical Cancer Spreads
Cervical cancer can break away from the main tumor. It may start growing in other parts of the body. Cervical cancer may spread in these two ways.
It may grow larger and invade nearby structures such as the vagina, bladder, rectum, or other tissues near the uterus and vagina.
A third type of spread, through the bloodstream, is uncommon.
When cervical cancer has spread to another part of the body, it's not considered a new cancer. For example, if it spreads to the vagina, it's not called vaginal cancer. It's called metastatic cervical cancer. This is because cancer is usually named for the site of the original tumor.
Stage Groupings of Cervical Cancer
The most commonly used staging system for cervical cancer is a system developed by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). In this system, the Roman numerals from 0 to IV represent the different stages of the cancer. The higher the number, the more serious or advanced the cancer is.
Stage 0 (this stage is not included in the FIGO system)
This stage is also called carcinoma in situ (CIS). The tumor is still very superficial. It has grown only in the layer of cells lining your cervix.
This cancer has grown into your cervix. It has not spread elsewhere. Stage I is further divided into these groups.
This cancer is in body parts near your cervix but not outside your pelvis or to the lower part of your vagina. Stage II is further divided in these ways.
This cancer has spread to your lower vagina or to the wall of the pelvis. Stage III is further divided in these ways.
With this stage, the cancer has spread to other parts of your body such as your bladder, rectum, or lungs. Stage IV is further divided in these ways.
Doctors consider the stage of the cancer and knowledge of a woman's health and the woman's feelings and preferences when recommending a treatment plan. Staging information helps doctors compare an individual situation to other women with cervical cancer. Based on clinical studies done on groups of women in similar stages of the cancer, a doctor can make some predictions about how the cancer may behave, and how different kinds of treatment may work.