Medical professionals sometimes assign stages to cancers to better define them. These stages refer to the extent of growth and spread of the cancer. Definitions can vary throughout the world for each stage. Stage 1 cervical cancer, however, is generally the earliest stage of the disease, with stage 4 the latest. Stage 1 also contains smaller sub-stages.
When medical tests show that a woman has cervical cancer, a doctor uses the results of the tests, and perhaps order more analysis, to assess the extent of the cancer and assign it a stage. As the disease does not progress in easily definable stages, doctors have come up with limits for each stage. These limits can vary according to the individual systems.
Most often, however, cervical cancer stages are defined by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) as well as by some regional groups. Though FIGO does not specify it, others include a stage 0, which identifies the presence of cancer cells on the surface of the cervix before stage 1 occurs.
Apart from stage 0, stage 1 cervical cancer is the earliest stage. The cancerous cells are growing in the cervix, which is the neck of the womb, but nowhere else. In contrast to stage 0, the cancer cells are not just on the surface of the cervix, but are in the cervical tissue itself.
Two sub-stages exist in stage 1 cervical cancer, which are 1A and 1B. Each of these sub-stages can also be divided further, into 1A1, 1A2, 1B1 and 1B2. These small groups define the size of the tumor.
Stage 1A refers to a tumor that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. 1A cervical tumors are under 7mm (about 1/4 inch) in diameter. To be in the 1A1 grouping, the tumors extend less than 3mm (about 1/8 inch) into the cervical tissue. 1A2 tumors are slightly deeper into the tissue, up to a maximum depth of 5mm (about 1.5 inches.)
The B division of stage 1 cervical cancer refers to tumors that are large enough for a doctor to see them without a microscope. Those under 4cm in width (about 1.6 inches) fall into 1B1 group, and bigger tumors are part of the 1B2 grouping. All cancers in stage 1 are localized to the cervix, and treatment options therefore include surgical removal or radiotherapy. Chemotherapy, which is drug treatment, may also be part of treatment for a woman who has a 1B2 tumor.