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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 four stages, numbered 1 to 4.

The number stages of womb cancer

  • Stage 1 cancer means the cancer is limited to the womb.
  • Stage 2 cancer means the cancer has spread to the cervix.
  • Stage 3 cancer means the cancer is more advanced but is still in the pelvis or lymph nodes nearby
  • Stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another body organ

Doctors usually give a grade to the cancer, depending on how the cells look under the microscope. Generally, low grade cancers tend to 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.

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, 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 four stages, numbered 1 to 4.

 

Stage 1 womb cancer

Stage 1 cancers are the easiest to treat. The cancer is limited to 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 spread to the cervix.

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

 

Stage 3 womb cancer

This stage means the cancer has spread further. There are 3 categories of stage 3 womb cancer

  • 3A means the cancer has grown into the ovaries
  • 3B means the cancer has spread into the vagina or into the tissues surrounding the womb (parametrium)
  • 3C means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph glands

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

 

Stage 4 womb cancer

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

  • 4A means the cancer has spread to the bowel or bladder
  • 4B means the cancer has spread to other organs that are further away, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain

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

 

Grading of your cancer

Cancers can grow quickly or more slowly. Doctors usually give a grade to the cancer depending on how the cells look under the microscope. The appearance of the cells will give the doctor an idea about how quickly or slowly the cancer is likely to grow. And this appearance decides the grade of the cancer. The more like normal womb cells they look, the lower the grade of the cancer. 

You may hear your doctor use the word differentiation. Differentiation means how developed or mature a cell is. So grade 1 (G1) cancer cells are well differentiated and look very like normal cells. Grade 2 cancer cells are moderately differentiated. Grade 3 cancer cells are poorly differentiated and look very abnormal. So the more abnormal the cancer cells look, the higher the grade of the cancer (G3 or G4). 

Generally, low grade cancers tend to grow more slowly and are less likely to spread than high grade cancers. Most endometrial womb cancers are the low grade, G1 types.

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Updated: 16 January 2013