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Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the cervix. An HPV infection that doesn't go away can cause cervical cancer in some women. HPV infections are very common. These viruses are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives, but most infections clear up on their own.

Staging for Cervical Cancer:

Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ): In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the innermost lining of the cervix. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I: In stage I, cancer has formed and 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 IA: 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 IB: In stage IB, cancer can only be seen with a microscope and is more than 5 millimeters deep or more than 7 millimeters wide, or can be seen without a microscope. Cancer that can be seen without a microscope is divided into stages IB1 and IB2, based on the size of the tumor.
    • In stage IB1, the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is not larger than 4 centimeters.
    • In stage IB2, the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is larger than 4 centimeters.

Stage II: 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 to tissues around the uterus.
  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the upper two thirds of the vagina and to the tissues around the uterus.

Stage III: In stage III, cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina, may have spread to the pelvic wall, and/or has caused the kidney to stop working. 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 kidneys to the bladder). This blockage can cause the kidneys to enlarge or stop working. Cancer cells may also have spread to lymph nodes in the pelvis.

Stage IV: 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 the bladder or rectal wall and may have spread to lymph nodes in the pelvis.
  • Stage IVB: Cancer has spread beyond the pelvis and pelvic lymph nodes to other places in the body, such as the abdomen, liver, intestinal tract, or lungs.

Treatment for Cervical Cancer:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment. Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Search for clinical trials in Georgia.

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's PDQ Database: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/cervix. (Accessed August 2013)

 

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