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Staging and grading of cervical cancer

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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 cervical cancer, one of the following stages will be used to describe your cancer:

  • Stage 0: Abnormal cells are found only in the first layer of the cells lining the cervix.
  • Stage 1: The cancer is found only in the tissues of the cervix.
  • Stage 2: The tumour has spread beyond the cervix to the vagina and tissues next to the cervix.
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread throughout the pelvic area.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread beyond the pelvic area to nearby organs such as the bladder or rectum. The tumour may also have spread to the lung, liver or bones, although this is uncommon.
  • Recurrent: If the cancer comes back after initial treatment, this is known as recurrent cancer. Cervical cancer may come back in the cervix or in another part of the body.

Grading

A pathologist will use tests on your cancer biopsy to ‘grade’ your cancer. Grade refers to the extent of similarity of cancer cells to normal cells. Low-grade tumours tend to grow more slowly while high-grade tumours grow faster and spread more quickly.