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The stage of womb cancer describes how far the cancer has grown and if it has spread from where it started.
Knowing the stage of the cancer is important because it affects the decisions you and your doctor will make about treatment. Your doctor won’t know the exact stage of the cancer until after your operation to remove the cancer and when the results of all your tests are ready.
Womb cancer is divided into four main number stages, and some of these are sub-divided.
The cancer is contained in the womb. There are two stages:
The cancer is only in the lining of the womb or has grown no more than halfway into the muscle.
The cancer has grown more than halfway into the muscle wall.
The cancer has spread to the cervix.
The cancer has spread but is confined to the pelvis. There are three stages:
The cancer is affecting the outer covering of the womb and/or involves the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
The cancer has spread into the vagina and/or into the tissue between the womb and the side wall of the pelvis (parametrium).
The cancer has spread to the pelvic lymph nodes and/or to the lymph nodes at the back of the tummy (abdomen).
The cancer has spread to other organs in the body. There are two stages:
The cancer has spread to the bowel and/or the bladder.
The cancer has spread to the lungs, bones or the brain (called secondary cancers or metastases).
Some other terms may be used to describe the cancer:
This usually refers to stages 1 and 2.
This usually refers to stage 3 and stage 4A womb cancers.
This is usually stage 4B womb cancer.
If a cancer comes back after it was first treated, it’s called recurrent cancer.
Grading is about how the cancer cells look under the microscope compared with normal cells. The grade helps your doctor decide if you’ll need further treatment after surgery.
The cancer cells tend to grow slowly, look quite similar to normal cells (are ‘well differentiated’) and are less likely to spread than higher grades.
The cells look more abnormal and are growing slightly quicker.
The cancer cells tend to be growing more quickly, look very abnormal (are ‘poorly differentiated’) and are more likely to spread than low-grade cancers.
Content last reviewed: 1 August 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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