Diagnosis

Staging and grading of vaginal cancer

The stage of a cancer is a term used to describe its size and whether it has spread beyond its original area of the body.

The grade of a cancer describes how quickly the tumour is likely to grow.

Knowing the extent of the cancer and the grade helps the doctors to decide on the most appropriate treatment.

Staging

If tests find vaginal cancer, one of the following stages will be used to describe your cancer:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is only in the vagina and has not spread.
  • Stage 2: The cancer has begun to spread through the wall of the vagina, but has not spread further into the walls of the pelvis.
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread to the pelvis and may also be in the lymph nodes close to the vagina.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread to the bladder or the bowel, or to other parts of the body such as the lungs.
  • Recurrent: If the cancer comes back after initial treatment, this is known as recurrent cancer. Vaginal cancer may come back in the vagina or in another part of the body.

Grading

Grading refers to the appearance of the cancer cells under the microscope and gives an idea of how quickly the cancer may develop.

Low grade means the cancer cells look like the normal cells. They are usually slow growing and are less likely to spread.

High grade means the cells look very abnormal. They are likely to grow more quickly and to spread.