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Stage 3

  • The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and whether it has spread. It helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.
  • Stage 3 cervical cancer means the cancer has spread from where it started in the cervix into the surrounding tissue.
  • It is divided into 3A, 3B and 3C, the stage you have depends on how far it has spread.
  • Treatment for stage 3 cervical cancer is a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy).

Stage 3 means the cancer has spread from the cervix into the structures around it or into the lymph nodes in the pelvis or abdomen. You usually have a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) for stage 3 cervical cancer.

What is it?

The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and whether it has spread. It helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.

Doctors use the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) staging system for cervical cancer. There are 4 stages, numbered 1 to 4. 

Stage 3 means the cancer has spread away from the cervix and into surrounding structures in the pelvis (the area between the hip bones). It may or may not have spread to pelvic lymph nodes.

It might have grown down into the lower part of the vagina and the muscles and ligaments that line the pelvis (pelvic wall). Or it might have grown up to block the tubes that drain the kidneys (the ureters).

Stage 3 can be divided into:

  • stage 3A
  • stage 3B
  • stage 3C - which is then further divided into stage 3C1 and 3C2 if scans show cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 3A

Stage 3A is when the cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina but not the pelvic wall.

Diagram showing stage 3A cervical cancer

Stage 3B

Stage 3B means the tumour has grown through to the pelvic wall or is blocking 1 or both of the tubes that drain the kidneys (the ureters).

Diagram showing stage 3B cervical cancer

Stage 3C

Stage 3C means the cancer can be any size in the pelvis but has not spread to distant sites in the body. 

If scans show cancer has spread to lymph nodes, 3C is then divided into:

  • 3C1
  • 3C2

Stage 3C1 means cancer is in the nearby pelvic lymph nodes. 

Diagram showing stage 3C1 cervical cancer

Stage 3C2 means cancer is in the para-aortic lymph nodes (in the abdomen). 

Diagram showing stage 3C2 cervical cancer

Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • your type of cancer (the type of cells the cancer started in)
  • where the cancer is
  • other health conditions that you have

You usually have a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) for stage 3 cervical cancer.

Combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy)

With this treatment, you have daily external radiotherapy for 5 days every week, for around 5 weeks. You also have a boost of internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) at the end of your course.

During your course of radiotherapy, you also have chemotherapy once a week or once every 2 or 3 weeks. This depends on the chemotherapy drugs you have.

Other stages

Last reviewed: 
23 Jul 2020
Next review due: 
23 Aug 2023
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    Annals of Oncology, 2017. Volume 28, Supplement 4

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    N.Singh, B. Rous and R.Ganesan

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