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Cervical Cancer Stages

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/28/2010

When diagnosing cervical cancer, medical professionals use certain criteria in order to determine the stage of the disease, or how far the cancer has progressed within the body. In this article, you will learn "What are the different stages of cervical cancer?"

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    Treatment options for cervical cancer are largely determined by the stage in which the disease is diagnosed. What are the different stages of cervical cancer? The five main stages, four of which are divided into sub-categories, are detailed below.

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    Stage 0

    Stage 0, the earliest stage of cervical cancer, is also known as carcinoma in situ. This stage is characterized by the presence of abnormal cells in the innermost lining (epithelium) of the cervix. Though confined to the cervical epithelium only during Stage 0, these cells have the potential to develop into cancer and spread through the cervical tissue.

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    Stage I

    Stage I cervical cancer is defined by the presence of a cancerous tumor that has not spread beyond the cervix. Stage I is further divided into the following subsets, according to the size and visibility of a tumor:

    --Stage IA: Microscopic cancer cells are located within cervical tissues.

    --Stage IA1: The tumor is less than 7 millimeters wide and less than 3 millimeters deep.

    --Stage IA2: The tumor is less than 7 millimeters wide and between 3 and 5 millimeters in depth.

    --Stage IB: The tumor is either visible without a microscope or is microscopic and greater than 7 millimeters in width and 5 millimeters in depth.

    --Stage IB1: A cancerous tumor is less than 4 centimeters in length and is visible without a microscope.

    --Stage IB2: A cancerous tumor is greater than 4 centimeters in length and is visible without a microscope.

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    Stage II

    A diagnosis of Stage II cervical cancer is given when cancerous cells have spread outside of the cervix but have not reached the lower third of the vagina or the pelvic wall. Stage II is subdivided as follows:

    --Stage IIA: Cancer cells have spread from the cervix to the upper two thirds of the vagina. In Stage IIA, the cancer has not yet reached the tissues surrounding the uterus.

    --Stage IIB: Cancer cells are found in the cervix, the upper two thirds of the vagina, and the tissues surrounding the uterus.

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    Stage III

    When a woman is diagnosed as having Stage III cervical cancer, cancerous cells are present in the cervix, all portions of the vagina, and possibly the pelvic wall. Stage III is divided into two subsets, the latter of which is sometimes characterized by complications in kidney function:

    --Stage IIIA: Cancer cells have not yet reached the pelvic wall, but are found in the cervix and throughout the upper and lower vagina.

    --Stage IIIB: Cancer cells have reached the pelvic wall and may affect lymph nodes in the pelvic region. A cancerous tumor may cause a blockage between the kidneys and the bladder, causing the kidneys to fail or enlarge.

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    Stage IV

    The most advanced stage of cervical cancer, Stage IV, is characterized by distant metastasis and is subdivided into these categories:

    --Stage IVA: Cancerous tumors have spread to the rectum, bladder, and possibly the pelvic lymph nodes.

    --Stage IVB: Cancerous tumors have spread from the pelvic lymph nodes and pelvis to areas such as the lungs, liver, intestines, or abdomen.

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    In addition to finding answers to the question "What are the different stages of cervical cancer?", women can also educate themselves on this disease by becoming familiar with common cervical cancer symptoms. Women should strive to have yearly Pap smears performed so that any signs of cervical cancer are found and treated as early as possible.

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    References

    1) National Cancer Institute--http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/cervical/Patient/page2

    2) American Cancer Society--http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CervicalCancer/DetailedGuide/cervical-cancer-staged