Cervical Cancer Dianosis

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Cervical Cancer Diagnosis

Test results from Papanicolaou (PAP) and Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing can take up to 3 weeks to process. Waiting on test results may cause some people to feel anxiety–you are not alone. This is something that happens to many women.

If the lab finds changes or abnormality in your cervical cells, your health care provider will require additional tests. This may include follow-up screenings, or a procedure called a colposcopy.

A colposcopy is performed similarly to a PAP smear, but will allow the doctor to view the cervix more extensively and take small samples from areas that look abnormal.

These samples will then be biopsied to determine next steps. If necessary, further tests may include imaging such as MRI or CT scan, or removal of a larger tissue sample, through a cone biopsy or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP).

Cervical cancer staging is used to characterize the cancer based on size and extent to which it may have spread.

Four Stages of Cervical Cancer

The numbered system of staging cancer has 4 stages that are used universally in cervical cancer diagnosis.

Stage I: A small amount of tumor is present in the cervix, but it has not spread to any other organs or lymph nodes.  

  • Stage IA means that the tumor is less than 3 mm in depth, i.e., stage IA1, or cancer has spread at an area of 3-5 mm in depth, i.e., stage IA2
  • Stage IB means that the tumor is large, but the tumor cells have not yet spread to the outside of the cervix. The tumor size is up to 2 cm or more in depth and 4 cm or more in width. Stage IB is often further divided into stage IB1 to IB4 based on the size of the tumor. 

Stage II: The tumor is no longer confined to the cervix and the uterus. It has invaded areas, such as the vagina, but it is still confined to the pelvic area. There is no distant spread. 

  • Stage IIA means that cancer is contained within the upper two-thirds of the vagina. The tissue next to the cervix is clear of cancerous cells. The tumor size at this stage is either less than 4 cm wide, i.e., stage IIA1, or it is 4 cm or more in width, i.e., stage IIA2. 
  • Stage IIB: The tumor has spread to the tissues around cervix, but it has not yet spread to the pelvic wall.

Stage III: The tumor has grown into the lower third of the vagina and may also have involved the pelvic wall, kidneys, and/or the regional lymph nodes. However, there is no distant spread of the tumor at this stage. Depending on which area cancer has spread to, for example, pelvic wall, stage III is also further categorized by health professionals. 

Stage IV: This is the last stage of cervical cancer. 

  • Stage IVA means that the tumor spreads to the bladder or rectum. 
  • Stage IVB means that the tumor has affected other distant sites of the body as well. 

Some doctors may also use the following terms when discussing the stage of cervical cancer:

  • Local means that the cancer is only in the cervix and has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Regional means it is located in an area close to the cervix or around it, like the vagina or pelvis.
  • Distant means in a part of the body farther from the cervix and outside of the pelvis.

Recurrent cervical cancer

Recurrent cervical cancer means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. If it comes back in the same place that the cancer first started, it’s called local recurrence.

If it comes back in tissues or lymph nodes close to where it first started, it’s called regional recurrence.

It can also recur in another part of the body. This is called distant metastasis or distant recurrence.

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