Stages of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer develops very slowly from abnormal cell changes in the cervix. This type of cancer can affect people of all ages.
The stage of cervical cancer refers to its size and whether it has spread beyond the area of the body where it first started. Knowing the extent of the cancer helps the doctors decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.
An illustration of the cervix
Cervical cancer is divided into four main stages. Each stage then has further sub-divisions. Your doctors may also use the following names to describe the stage of the cancer:
- Early-stage cervical cancer – this usually includes stages 1A to 1B1.
- Locally advanced cervical cancer – this usually includes stages 1B2 to 4A.
- Advanced-stage or metastatic cervical cancer – this usually means stage 4B.
If the cancer comes back after initial treatment, this is known as recurrent cancer.
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The cancer cells are only within the cervix.
Stage 1 can be further divided into:
The cancer can only be seen with a microscope or colposcope.
The cancer is less than 3mm deep.
The cancer is between 3 and 5mm deep.
The cancer is 5mm or more deep, but still confined to the cervix.
The cancer is no larger than 2cm wide.
The cancer is between 2 and 4cm wide.
The cancer is 4cm or more wide.
The cancer has spread into the upper part of the vagina or the tissues next to the cervix.
Stage 2 can be further divided into:
The cancer has spread into the upper part of the vagina.
The cancer is no larger than 4cm.
The cancer is larger than 4cm.
The cancer has spread into the tissues next to the cervix.
The cancer has spread to the lower part of the vagina, or to the tissues at the sides of the pelvic area (called the pelvic wall), or to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3 can be divided into the following:
The cancer has spread into the lower part of the vagina.
The cancer has spread to the pelvic wall, or is pressing on the tubes that carry urine (pee) from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters). If the tumour is pressing on a ureter, urine may build up in the kidney.
The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
The cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the pelvis.
The cancer has spread to lymph nodes above the pelvis, called the para-aortic lymph nodes.
The cancer has spread to the bladder or bowel or beyond the pelvic area.
Stage 4 can be further divided into:
The cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder and bowel.
The cancer has spread to organs further from the cervix, such as the lungs, liver or bone.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our cervical cancer, cervical screening and CIN information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
GOV.UK. Cervical screening: programme overview. Updated 18 November 2019. Available from www.gov.uk/guidance/cervical-screening-programme-overview (accessed March 2020).
GOV.UK. Colposcopic diagnosis, treatment and follow up. Updated 5 February 2020. Available from www.gov.uk/government/publications/cervical-screening-programme-and-colposcopy-management/3-colposcopic-diagnosis-treatment-and-follow-up (accessed April 2020).
Marth C, Landoni F, Mahner S, et al. Cervical cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines. Annals of Oncology, 2017; 28, suppl 4, iv72–iv83. Available from www.esmo.org/guidelines/gynaecological-cancers/cervical-cancer (accessed October 2020).
Reed N, Balega J, Barwick T, et al. British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) cervical cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice. 2020. Available from www.bgcs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/FINAL-Cx-Ca-Version-for-submission.pdf (accessed October 2020).
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Nick Reed, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.
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