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Cervical Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 03/14/2014

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Stage Information for Cervical Cancer

Definitions: FIGO

Cervical carcinoma has its origins at the squamous-columnar junction whether in the endocervical canal or on the portion of the cervix. The precursor lesion is dysplasia or carcinoma in situ (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia [CIN]), which can subsequently become invasive cancer. This process can be quite slow. Longitudinal studies have shown that in untreated patients with in situ cervical cancer, 30% to 70% will develop invasive carcinoma over a period of 10 to 12 years. However, in about 10% of patients, lesions can progress from in situ to invasive in a period of less than 1 year. As it becomes invasive, the tumor breaks through the basement membrane and invades the cervical stroma. Extension of the tumor in the cervix may ultimately manifest as ulceration, exophytic tumor, or extensive infiltration of underlying tissue including bladder or rectum.

In addition to local invasion, carcinoma of the cervix can spread via the regional lymphatics or bloodstream. Tumor dissemination is generally a function of the extent and invasiveness of the local lesion. While cancer of the cervix generally progresses in an orderly manner, occasionally a small tumor with distant metastasis is seen. For this reason, patients must be carefully evaluated for metastatic disease.

Pretreatment surgical staging is the most accurate method to determine the extent of disease.[1] Because there is little evidence to demonstrate overall improved survival with routine surgical staging, the staging usually should be performed only as part of a clinical trial. Pretreatment surgical staging in bulky but locally curable disease may be indicated in select cases when a nonsurgical search for metastatic disease is negative. If abnormal nodes are detected by computed tomography scan or lymphangiography, fine-needle aspiration should be negative before a surgical staging procedure is performed.

Definitions: FIGO

The Féderation Internationale de Gynécologie et d’Obstétrique (FIGO) and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) have designated staging to define cervical cancer; the FIGO system is most commonly used.[2,3]

Table 1. Carcinoma of the Cervix Uteria
IThe carcinoma is strictly confined to the cervix (extension to the corpus would be disregarded).
IAInvasive carcinoma, which can be diagnosed only by microscopy with deepest invasion ≤5 mm and largest extension ≥7 mm.
IA1Measured stromal invasion of ≤3.0 mm in depth and extension of ≤7.0 mm.
IA2Measured stromal invasion of >3.0 mm and not >5.0 mm with an extension of not >7.0 mm.
IBClinically visible lesions limited to the cervix uteri or preclinical cancers greater than stage IA.b
IB1Clinically visible lesion ≤4.0 cm in greatest dimension.
IB2Clinically visible lesion >4.0 cm in greatest dimension.
IICervical carcinoma invades beyond the uterus but not to the pelvic wall or to the lower third of the vagina.
IIAWithout parametrial invasion.
IIA1Clinically visible lesion ≤4.0 cm in greatest dimension.
IIA2Clinically visible lesion >4.0 cm in greatest dimension.
IIBWith obvious parametrial invasion.
IIIThe tumor extends to the pelvic wall and/or involves lower third of the vagina and/or causes hydronephrosis or nonfunctioning kidney.c
IIIATumor involves lower third of the vagina with no extension to the pelvic wall.
IIIBExtension to the pelvic wall and/or hydronephrosis or nonfunctioning kidney.
IVThe carcinoma has extended beyond the true pelvis or has involved (biopsy proven) the mucosa of the bladder or rectum. A bullous edema, as such, does not permit a case to be allotted to stage IV.
IVASpread of the growth to adjacent organs.
IVBSpread to distant organs.

aAdapted from FIGO Committee on Gynecologic Oncology.[2]
bAll macroscopically visible lesions—even with superficial invasion—are allotted to stage IB carcinomas. Invasion is limited to a measured stromal invasion with a maximal depth of 5.00 mm and a horizontal extension of not >7.00 mm. Depth of invasion should not be >5.00 mm taken from the base of the epithelium of the original tissue—superficial or glandular. The depth of invasion should always be reported in mm, even in those cases with "early (minimal) stromal invasion" (~1 mm).
The involvement of vascular/lymphatic spaces should not change the stage allotment.
cOn rectal examination, there is no cancer-free space between the tumor and the pelvic wall. All cases with hydronephrosis or nonfunctioning kidney are included, unless they are known to be the result of another cause.

  1. Gold MA, Tian C, Whitney CW, et al.: Surgical versus radiographic determination of para-aortic lymph node metastases before chemoradiation for locally advanced cervical carcinoma: a Gynecologic Oncology Group Study. Cancer 112 (9): 1954-63, 2008.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Pecorelli S: Revised FIGO staging for carcinoma of the vulva, cervix, and endometrium. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 105 (2): 103-4, 2009.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Cervix uteri. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 395-402.