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The stage of a cancer is a term used to describe its size and whether it has spread beyond the area of the body where it first started. Grading refers to the appearance of the cancer cells under a microscope.
Knowing the stage of the cancer will help you and your doctor to decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.
This is a commonly used staging system for vulval cancer:
The cancer is only in the vulva and/or perineum (the space between the anus and the vagina). Stage 1 can be further divided into Stage 1A and 1B, depending on the size of the cancer and how deeply into the skin of the vulva the cancer has grown:
The cancer is any size and has spread to nearby structures, such as the lower part of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder), the vagina or the anus (the opening of the rectum).
The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the right or left side of the groin. Stage 3 is further divided into:
Stage 4 is divided into:
Gynaecologists often refer to stage 1 and 2 cancers as early-stage cancers and stage 3 and 4 cancers as advanced-stage cancers. However, some gynaecologists consider only stage 1 cancers as early-stage cancer.
The grade gives an idea of how quickly the cancer may develop.
The most commonly used system uses three grades:
Knowing the grade of the cancer helps the doctors decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.
Content last reviewed: 1 December 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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