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Staging and prognosis of vaginal cancer

Staging

Based on the test results, your doctor will tell you the stage of the cancer. Staging is a way to describe the size of the cancer and whether it has spread from the vagina to other parts of the body.

Your doctor may also tell you the grade of the cancer cells. This gives you an idea of how quickly the cancer may grow. A low-grade (grade 1) cancer means that the cells are slow-growing and less likely to spread. High-grade (grade 3) cells look more abnormal, and are more likely to grow and spread quickly.

Knowing the stage and grade of the cancer helps your health care team recommend the most appropriate treatment.

stage ICancer is found only in the vagina.
stage IICancer has begun to spread through the vaginal wall, but has not spread into the wall of the pelvis.
stage IIICancer has spread to the pelvis. It may also be in the lymph nodes close to the vagina.
stage IVCancer has spread beyond the pelvis or into the lining of the bladder or bowel. The cancer may also have spread to distant parts of the body.

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 as it varies from woman to woman. Instead your doctor can give you an idea of possible outcomes, and common issues that affect women with vaginal cancer.

Some women with vaginal cancer may want to know the statistics for women in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful. Do what feels right for you.

In most cases, the earlier vaginal cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment. Test results, the type of vaginal cancer you have, the rate and depth of tumour growth, how well you respond to treatment, and other factors (such as age, fitness and medical history) are all important in assessing your prognosis. You will have regular check-ups to see whether the cancer has responded to treatment.