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The stage of a cancer is how much and how far the cancer has spread in your body. Your healthcare provider uses exams and tests to find out the size of the cancer and where it is. He or she can also see if the cancer has grown into nearby areas, and if it has spread to other parts of your body. The stage of a cancer is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer and gives information that helps when discussing possible outcomes.
Endometrial cancer is usually staged after surgery. This is done by looking at the removed uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and lymph nodes in a pathology lab.
Doctors use different systems to stage cancer. There are two systems used most often to stage endometrial cancer:
FIGO staging system
TNM staging system
The two systems are very similar. They both use the TNM system which is:
T stands for tumor. This category notes details about the tumor itself.
N stands for nodes. Lymph nodes are small organs around the body. They help the body fight infections. This category notes if cancer cells have spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
M stands for metastasis. This category notes if the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes, organs, or bones.
Stage I. The cancer is only in the uterus. The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
Stage IA. The cancer is only in the endometrium, the uterine lining, or it has spread less than halfway through the myometrium. This is the muscle layer of the uterus.
Stage IB. The cancer has spread more than halfway through the myometrium.
Stage II. The cancer has spread from the endometrium to the connective tissue in the cervix. The cervix is the lower end of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It has not spread outside the uterus or to lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.
Stage III. The cancer has spread beyond the uterus and cervix. But it is still only in the pelvic area:
Stage IIIA. The cancer has spread to the outer surface (serosa) of the uterus, and/or to the fallopian tubes or ovaries. It has not spread to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.
Stage IIIB. The cancer has spread to the vagina or to the tissues surrounding the uterus called the parametrium. It has not spread to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.
Stage IIIC. The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the uterus. It may also have spread to some nearby tissues. It has not invaded the bladder or rectum.
Stage IV. The cancer has spread beyond the pelvic area.
Stage IVA. The cancer has spread to the mucosa or inner lining of the rectum or bladder. It may also have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not to distant parts of the body.
Stage IVB. The cancer has spread to organs away from the uterus, such as the lungs or bones. It may also have spread to lymph nodes.
Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Make sure to ask any questions or talk about your concerns.
It is very important that your cancer be diagnosed by an expert, such as a gynecologic oncologist. This is a specialist with advanced training. He or she is trained in the diagnosis, treatment, and watching of female cancers such as endometrial cancer.
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