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Staging and prognosis of cervical cancer

Staging

The tests completed help the doctors decide how far the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Knowing the stage of the cancer helps your health care team recommend the best treatment for your situation.

In Australia, cervical cancer is usually staged using the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) staging system. This is also often used for other cancers of the female reproductive organs. FIGO divides cervical cancer into four stages. Each stage is further divided into several sub-stages such as A, B and C.

stage 1Cancer is found only in the tissue of the cervix - early or localised cancer.
stage 2Cancer has spread outside the cervix to the upper two-thirds of the vagina or other tissue next to the cervix - locally advanced cancer.
stage 3Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina and/or the tissue on the side of the pelvis (pelvic wall). The cancer may also have spread to lymph nodes in the pelvis or abdomen, or caused a kidney to stop working - locally advanced cancer.
stage 4Cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum (stage 4A) or beyond the pelvis to the lungs, liver or bones (stage 4B) - metastatic or advanced cancer.

Prognosis

Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of the disease. Instead, your doctor can give you an idea about the general outlook for people with the same type and stage of cervical cancer.

To work out your prognosis, your doctor will consider:

  • your test results
  • the type of cervical cancer
  • the size of the cancer and how far it has grown into other tissue
  • whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • other factors such as your age, fitness and overall health.

In general, the earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Most early-stage cervical cancers have a good prognosis with high survival rates. If cancer is found after it has spread
outside the cervix (locally advanced cancer), it may still respond well to treatment and can often be kept under control. In recent years, clinical trials have led to new treatments that continue to improve the prognosis for people with metastatic cervical cancer.

Discussing your prognosis and thinking about the future can be challenging and stressful. It may help to talk with family and friends. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you or your family or friends need more information or emotional support.

Featured resource

Understanding Cervical Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in September 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Pearly Khaw, Lead Radiation Oncologist, Gynae-Tumour Stream, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Deborah Neesham, Gynaecological Oncologist, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Frances Perry House, VIC; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, VIC; Dr Alison Davis, Medical Oncologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Krystle Drewitt, Consumer; Shannon Philp, Nurse Practitioner, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and The University of Sydney Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, NSW; Dr Robyn Sayer, Gynaecological Oncologist Cancer Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Megan Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Council NSW; Melissa Whalen, Consumer.