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Cervical Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 10/22/2014

Stages of Cervical Cancer



After cervical cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the cervix or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the cervix or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:

  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.

  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).

  • Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. This picture can be printed to be looked at later.

  • Chest x-ray : An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.

  • Cystoscopy : A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.

  • Laparoscopy : A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen to check for signs of disease. Small incisions (cuts) are made in the wall of the abdomen and a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same or other incisions to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

  • Pretreatment surgical staging: Surgery (an operation) is done to find out if the cancer has spread within the cervix or to other parts of the body. In some cases, the cervical cancer can be removed at the same time. Pretreatment surgical staging is usually done only as part of a clinical trial.

The results of these tests are viewed together with the results of the original tumor biopsy to determine the cervical cancer stage.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if cervical cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually cervical cancer cells. The disease is metastatic cervical cancer, not lung cancer.

The following stages are used for cervical cancer:

Carcinoma in Situ (Stage 0)

In carcinoma in situ (stage 0), abnormal cells are found in the innermost lining of the cervix. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue.

Enlarge
Millimeters; drawing shows millimeters (mm) using everyday objects. A sharp pencil point shows 1 mm, a new crayon point shows 2 mm, and a new pencil-top eraser shows 5 mm.
Millimeters (mm). A sharp pencil point is about 1 mm, a new crayon point is about 2 mm, and a new pencil eraser is about 5 mm.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer is found in the cervix only.

Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB, based on the amount of cancer that is found.

  • Stage IA:
    Enlarge
    Stage IA1 and IA2 cervical cancer; drawing shows a cross-section of the cervix and vagina. An inset shows cancer in the cervix that is up to 5 mm deep, but not more than 7 mm wide.
    Stage IA1 and IA2 cervical cancer. A very small amount of cancer that can only be seen with a microscope is found in the tissues of the cervix. In stage IA1, the cancer is not more than 3 millimeters deep and not more than 7 millimeters wide. In stage IA2, the cancer is more than 3 but not more than 5 millimeters deep, and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
    A very small amount of cancer that can only be seen with a microscope is found in the tissues of the cervix.

    Stage IA is divided into stages IA1 and IA2, based on the size of the tumor.

    • In stage IA1, the cancer is not more than 3 millimeters deep and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
    • In stage IA2, the cancer is more than 3 but not more than 5 millimeters deep, and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
  • Stage IB:
    Enlarge
    Stage IB1 and IB2 cervical cancer shown in three cross-section drawings of the cervix and vagina. An inset on the left shows stage IB1 cancer that is 7 mm wide and more than 5 mm deep. Drawing in the middle shows stage IB1 cancer that is smaller than 4 cm. Drawing on the right shows stage IB2 cancer that is larger than 4 cm.
    Stage IB1 and IB2 cervical cancer. In stage IB1, the cancer can only be seen with a microscope and is more than 5 mm deep and more than 7 mm wide OR the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is 4 cm or smaller. In stage IB2, the cancer is larger than 4 cm.

    Stage IB is divided into stages IB1 and IB2, based on the size of the tumor.

    • In stage IB1:
      • the cancer can only be seen with a microscope and is more than 5 millimeters deep and more than 7 millimeters wide; or
      • the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is 4 centimeters wide or smaller.
    • In stage IB2, the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is more than 4 centimeters.

Stage II

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Stage II cervical cancer; drawing shows a cross-section of the uterus, cervix and vagina. In stages IIA1 and IIA2, cancer that is 4 cm is shown in the cervix and in the upper third of the vagina. In stage IIB, cancer is shown in the cervix, the upper two thirds of the vagina, and in the tissues around the uterus.
Stage II cervical cancer. Cancer has spread beyond the cervix but not to the pelvic wall or to the lower third of the vagina. In stages IIA1 and IIA2, cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the vagina. In stage IIA1, the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is 4 centimeters or smaller. In stage IIA2, the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is larger than 4 centimeters. In stage IIB, cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the tissues around the uterus.

In stage II, cancer has spread beyond the cervix but not to the pelvic wall (the tissues that line the part of the body between the hips) or to the lower third of the vagina.

Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB, based on how far the cancer has spread.

  • Stage IIA: Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the upper two thirds of the vagina but not to tissues around the uterus. Stage IIA is divided into stages IIA1 and IIA2, based on the size of the tumor.
    • In stage IIA1, the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is 4 centimeters wide or smaller.
    • In stage IIA2, the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is more than 4 centimeters.
  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the tissues around the uterus.

Stage III

In stage III, cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina, and/or to the pelvic wall, and/or has caused kidney problems.

Stage III is divided into stages IIIA and IIIB, based on how far the cancer has spread.

  • Stage IIIA:
    Enlarge
    Stage IIIA cervical cancer; drawing shows a cross-section of the cervix and vagina. Cancer is shown in the cervix and in the full length of the vagina.
    Stage IIIA cervical cancer. Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina but not to the pelvic wall.
    Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina but not to the pelvic wall.
  • Stage IIIB:
    Enlarge
    Stage IIIB cervical cancer; drawing shows cancer in the cervix, the vagina, and  the pelvic wall, blocking the ureter on the right. The uterus and kidneys are also shown.
    Stage IIIB cervical cancer. Cancer has spread to the pelvic wall; and/or the tumor has become large enough to block the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder). The drawing shows the ureter on the right blocked by the cancer. This blockage can cause the kidney to enlarge or stop working.
    • Cancer has spread to the pelvic wall; and/or
    • the tumor has become large enough to block the ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder). This blockage can cause the kidneys to get bigger or stop working.

Stage IV

In stage IV, cancer has spread to the bladder, rectum, or other parts of the body.

Stage IV is divided into stages IVA and IVB, based on where the cancer has spread.

  • Stage IVA:
    Enlarge
    Stage IVA cervical cancer; drawing and inset show that cancer has spread from the cervix to the bladder and rectal wall.
    Stage IVA cervical cancer. Cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum.
    Cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum.
  • Stage IVB:
    Enlarge
    Stage IVB cervical cancer; drawing shows the places in the body where stage IV cervical cancer may spread, including the lymph nodes, lung, liver, intestinal tract, cervix, abdominal wall, and bone. Also shown is an inset of cancer that has spread to a lymph node and through the blood to other parts of the body.
    Stage IVB cervical cancer. Cancer has spread to parts of the body away from the cervix, such as the liver, intestines, lungs, or bones.
    Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or distant lymph nodes.