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A quick guide to what's on this page

What is staging?

The stage of a cancer tells the doctor how large it is and whether it has spread. It is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer. Doctors normally use a simple staging system for womb cancer. This system has 4 stages, numbered 1 to 4.

The number stages of womb cancer

  • Stage 1 means the cancer is within the womb.
  • Stage 2 means the cancer has grown into the cervix.
  • Stage 3 means the cancer has spread outside the womb, but is still within the pelvis. It may have spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • Stage 4 means the cancer has grown into the bladder or bowel, or has spread to another area of the body such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain

Doctors usually give a grade to the cancer, depending on how the cells look under the microscope. They are graded from 1 (low grade) to 3 (high grade). Generally, low grade cancers grow more slowly and are less likely to spread than high grade cancers.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating womb cancer section.

 

 

What cancer staging is

The stage of a cancer tells the doctor how large it is and whether it has spread. The tests and scans you have when diagnosing your cancer give some information about the stage. This information is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer. You may not find out the exact stage until after your operation to remove the cancer.

If you have a very early stage 1 womb cancer, you will probably have treatment at your local Cancer Unit. Women with more advanced stage 1 cancers or stage 2 and higher, should be treated at specialist Cancer Centres.

 

The number stages of womb cancer

Doctors normally use a simple staging system for womb cancer called the FIGO (International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics) system. It has 4 stages, numbered 1 to 4.

 

Stage 1 womb cancer

Stage 1 cancers are the easiest to treat. The cancer is within the womb. There are 2 categories of stage 1 womb cancer

  • 1A means that the cancer may have grown into the muscle wall (myometrium) of the womb, but no more than halfway
  • 1B means the cancer has grown halfway or more into the muscle wall of the womb

Diagram showing stage 1A to 1C cancer of the womb

 

Stage 2 womb cancer

This means the cancer has grown into the cervix.

Diagram showing stage 2A and 2B cancer of the womb

 

Stage 3 womb cancer

This stage means the cancer has spread outside the womb, but is still within the pelvis. There are 3 categories of stage 3 womb cancer

  • 3A means the cancer has grown into the outer covering of the womb (the serosa), or to the ovaries or fallopian tubes
  • 3B means the cancer has grown into the vagina or the tissues surrounding the womb (parametrium)
  • 3C means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (glands)

Diagram showing stage 3A to 3C cancer of the womb

 

Stage 4 womb cancer

Stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another area of the body. There are 2 categories of stage 4 womb cancer

  • 4A means the cancer has grown into the bowel or bladder
  • 4B means the cancer has spread to lymph nodes further away or to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain (secondary cancers or metastases)

Diagram showing stage 4A and 4B cancer of the womb

 

Early or advanced womb cancer

Your doctor or nurse may describe your cancer as being early, locally advanced or advanced stage. Generally, stage 1 and stage 2 womb cancers are early. Stage 3 and stage 4A womb cancers are locally advanced. Stage 4B cancers are advanced (metastatic). 

 

Grading of your cancer

Cancers can grow quickly or more slowly. Pathologists usually give a grade to the cancer depending on how much the cells look like normal womb cells. This gives the doctor an idea about how quickly the cancer is likely to grow. 

You may hear your doctor use the word differentiation. This means how developed or mature a cell is. So grade 1 (low grade) cancer cells are well differentiated and look very like normal cells. Grade 2 cancer cells are moderately differentiated and look less like normal cells. Grade 3 (high grade) cancer cells are poorly differentiated and look very abnormal.

Generally, low grade cancers grow more slowly and are less likely to spread than high grade cancers. Most endometrial womb cancers are low grade.

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Updated: 17 September 2014