Cervical cancer is, obviously, cancer which begins growing on your cervix. Lets take a look at a diagram, from www.cancer.org, which identifies the cervix, exocervix, and endocervix. We are going to get super medical here for a moment, so please stick with me. The endocervix is the part of the cervix closest to the uterus, it is made up of glandular cells. The exocervix is the part of the cervix closest to the vagina, it is made up of squamous cells.
If you made it through all that medical jargon, thank you for sticking with me. My cancer falls into the less than 10% range, I have adenocarcinoma cervical cancer. That basically means my cervical cancer started on the part of my cervix closest to my uterus. What does this really mean to the lay person? Nothing, I mean lets get real, cancer is cancer. This information is important for a gynecologic oncologist when determining the best course of treatment for an individual with cervical cancer.
I think it is really important for any person to ask questions and be aware if they are given any sort of medical diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed with cervical cancer I didn’t even know there were different types of cervical cancer. It honestly wasn’t until I had my THIRD occurrence of cervical cancer that I thought to ask if they could tell me what kind of cancer I had. Let that sink in, I had cancer, three times before I even knew what type I had!
Another way cervical cancer can be identified is based on what stage the cancer is at when it is diagnosed. I did think to ask what stage cancer I had, though I had limited knowledge of cancer at that time I did know there were different stages. My cancer was stage 1B2 when I was diagnosed in October 2012. I remember asking my gynecologic oncologist when I had my first recurrence what stage I was, he informed me that they don’t restage cancer. Seems strange to me, but I will go with it. Lets take a look at the different stages of cervical cancer, be ready, we are about to get medical again!
Staging gets a little tricky, based on which source you use you find some discrepancies. Below is a list of staging requirements as identified by the American Cancer Society:
- Stage 0 – also known as carcinoma in situ is when abnormal cells are found on the inner lining of the cervix. If these abnormal cells are left untreated they can become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue.
- Stage I – stage I cervical cancer is found on the cervix only. Stage I is divided into IA and IB, based on the amount of cancer which is found.
- Stage IA1 – the cancer is not more than 3 millimeters deep and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
- Stage IA2 – the cancer is more than 3 but not more than 5 millimeters deep and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
- Stage IB1 – 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 not more than 4 centimeters.
- Stage IB2 – the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is more than 4 centimeters.
- Stage II – the cancer has spread beyond the uterus, but not onto the pelvic wall or the lower third of the vagina.
- Stage IIA1 – the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is not more than 4 centimeters.
- Stage IIA2 – the tumor can be seen without a microscope and is more than 4 centimeters.
- Stage IIB – the cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the tissues around the uterus but not onto the pelvic wall.
- Stage III – the cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina, and/or onto the pelvic wall and/or has caused kidney problems.
- Stage IIIA – the cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina but not onto the pelvic wall.
- Stage IIIB – the cancer has spread onto the pelvic wall OR the tumor has become large enough to block one or both ureters OR is evident in the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV – the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis, OR can be seen in the lining of the blader and/or rectum, OR has spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage IVA – the cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum.
- Stage IVB – the cancer has spread to other body parts or distant lymph nodes
- Recurrent Cervical Cancer – the cancer has recurred after it has been treated.
Wow! That was a ton of information. Do you have any questions? As a quick recap on my personal cervical cancer story, I was diagnosed with stage 1B2 adenocarcinoma in October 2012. I was diagnosed with recurrent cervical cancer in April 2014 and again in May 2015. I am currently working on being cancer free!
I would recommend if you, or someone you love, is diagnosed with cervical cancer to be prepared with questions when you visit your doctor.