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What Are the Stages of Uterine Cancer?

Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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There are four stages of uterine cancer, which are labeled as Stage I, II, III, and IV. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is sometimes described as recurrent as well. This basically just means that it has been successfully treated in the past but returned after treatment. Uterine cancer is most treatable in the earliest stages. When it is diagnosed at a later stage, the patient’s prognosis is usually dramatically worse.

The different stages of uterine cancer are used to indicate if and how far the cancer has spread. This can be important for understanding how extensive a case of cancer is as well as the chances of full recovery. Usually, a woman who has Stage I uterine cancer has a better chance of making a full recovery, but this does not mean that a later stage of cancer always ends badly. Instead, a patient’s prognosis may also depend on her unique health status, the treatments employed, and the way her body responds to treatment.

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First among the stages of uterine cancer is Stage I, which means the cancer is confined to the uterus. This stage, however, is usually divided into three categories or substages. When a person has Stage IA cancer of the uterus, this means the malignancy is only in the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus. Stage IB means the cancer has moved from the endometrium into to muscular part of the uterus, which is referred to as the myometrium. Once the cancer spreads beyond this layer of muscle, the patient is said to have Stage IC cancer of the uterus.

A woman is said to have Stage II cancer when the malignancy spreads as far as her cervix, which is forms the "neck" of the uterus and provides a pathway from the vagina to the uterine organ. This stage is divided into two substages. Stage IIA is used to describe a case in which the cancer begins to affect the glands in the cervical area. In Stage IIB, it has moved on to involve the cervix’s connective tissue.

With Stage III uterine cancer, the malignancy moves beyond the cervix but is still confined to the patient’s pelvic area. This stage has three categories. In Stage IIIA, the cancer may affect the outer layer of the uterus; the tissue right outside the uterus; the peritoneum, which is a membrane that lines the pelvic and abdominal cavities; or any combination of these. In Stage IIIB, the cancer has spread into the vagina, while in stage IIIC, it has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV of uterine cancer means the malignancy has moved outside the patient’s pelvis. This stage has two categories. Stage IVA means it has spread into the bowel or the bladder. Stage IVB means it has spread past the pelvis.

Sometimes uterine cancer is also described as recurrent. This isn’t really one of the stages of uterine cancer, however. Instead, it means the cancer has been treated in the past but then developed again in the same patient.

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