After cervical cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the cervix or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the cervix or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-raymachine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
- PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scannerrotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
- Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called asonogram.
- Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
- Cystoscopy: A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. Acystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
- Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen to check for signs of disease. Small incisions (cuts) are made in the wall of the abdomen and a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same or other incisions to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
- Pretreatment surgical staging: Surgery (an operation) is done to find out if the cancer has spread within the cervix or to other parts of the body. In some cases, the cervical cancer can be removed at the same time. Pretreatment surgical staging is usually done only as part of a clinical trial.
The results of these tests are viewed together with the results of the original tumor biopsy to determine the cervical cancer stage.
In stage I, cancer is found in the cervix only. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB, based on the amount of cancer that is found.
Stage 1A: A very small amount of cancer that can only be seen with a microscope is found in the tissues of the cervix. Stage IA is divided into stages IA1 and IA2, based on the size of the tumor.
- In stage IA1, the cancer is not more than 3 millimeters deep and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
- In stage IA2, the cancer is more than 3 but not more than 5 millimeters deep, and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
Stage 1B:Stage IB is divided into stages IB1 and IB2.
- In stage 1B:
- the cancer can only be seen with a microscope and is more than 5 millimeters deep and more than 7 millimeters wide; or
- the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is 4 centimeters or smaller.
- In stage IB2, the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is larger than 4 centimeters.
In stage II, cancer has spread beyond the cervix but not to the pelvic wall (the tissues that line the part of the body between the hips) or to the lower third of the vagina. Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB, based on how far the cancer has spread.
- Stage IIA: Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the upper two thirds of the vagina but not totissues around the uterus. Stage IIA is divided into stages IIA1 and IIA2, based on the size of the tumor.
- In stage IIA1, the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is 4 centimeters or smaller.
- In stage IIA2, the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is larger than 4 centimeters.
- Stage IIB; Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the tissues around the uterus.
In stage III, cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina, and/or to the pelvic wall, and/or has caused kidney problems. Stage III is divided into stages IIIA and IIIB, based on how far the cancer has spread.
- Stage IIIA: Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina but not to the pelvic wall.
- Stage IIIB:
- Cancer has spread to the pelvic wall; and/or
- the tumor has become large enough to block the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneysto the bladder). This blockage can cause the kidneys to enlarge or stop working.
In stage IV, cancer has spread to the bladder, rectum, or other parts of the body. Stage IV is divided into stages IVA and IVB, based on where the cancer is found.
- Stage IVA: Cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum.
- Stage IVB; Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or distant lymph nodes.
Reference: National Cancer Institute