Cervical cancer stages are identified with a thorough clinical exam that is performed after a diagnosis is confirmed. Cancer can be staged through a combination of imaging, physical exams, biopsies, tissue diagnoses and sometimes surgery. The results are used to determine the size of any tumors, whether the cancer has invaded tissues in and around the cervix and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Staging is important because it drives diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.
Cervical cancer stages
Cervical cancer stages are numbered 1 to 4 (a “stage 0” is sometimes used to reference abnormal cells that have not grown past the surface layer of the cervix), and are used to describe the cancer’s progression. Stages 1-4 are further broken down with letters (for instance, stage 1A or 1B) based on the size of the cancer. The main stages are described below.
Stage 0 is also commonly called “carcinoma in situ.” This stage is sometimes considered “pre-cancer” because the abnormal cells are only at the surface layer of the cervix and have not moved into deeper layers of cells. When cancerous cells are detected at this early stage, they can be successfully destroyed with proper treatment.
At stage 1, cancer has grown past the surface of the cervix to deeper layers of tissue; it may have moved into the body of the uterus, but it has not progressed outside of the uterus.
When cervical cancer reaches stage 2, it has spread beyond the cervix and uterus, but it has not yet grown to the lower third of the vagina or the pelvic wall. The cancer may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Once cervical cancer progresses to stage 3, the cancerous cells have spread to the lower third of the vagina or has spread to the pelvic wall. At this stage, the cancer could cause hydronephrosis (swelling of a kidney) or could be blocking the ureters, which carry urine to the bladder from the kidneys. The cancer may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4 cervical cancer has metastasized to the bladder or rectum, or out of the pelvis. It may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes. More advanced stage 4 cervical cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, liver, bones or distant lymph nodes.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, each patient’s cancer staging is one of many factors that are reviewed in detail during a weekly tumor board meeting of cancer specialists. In this way, each patient receives the benefit of multiple expert opinions, all of which are incorporated into a highly individualized treatment plan. At Moffitt, we are proud to provide the very latest in every aspect of cancer care, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and supportive care.
Medically reviewed by Mian Shahzad, MD, PhD, gynecologic oncologist
To learn more about cervical cancer stages from the cancer experts at Moffitt, or if you have questions about your prognosis or are in need of diagnostic testing, please call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form. Our physicians are available even if you don’t have a referral.