What are the grades and stages of uterine (womb) cancer?

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Grading describes how quickly the cancer may grow and spread. 

Low-grade uterine (womb) cancer
The cancer cells look only slightly abnormal, much like normal uterine cells. The cancer is usually slow-growing and less likely to spread than high-grade uterine cancer.

High-grade uterine (womb) cancer
The cancer cells look fairly or very abnormal and are more likely to grow quickly. 

Read more about types of womb cancer.

Grading describes the cancer cells – what they look like under a microscope and how they might grow.
Staging describes where the cancer is in your body.

What are the stages of uterine (womb) cancer?

Staging describes how far the cancer has spread through the uterus lining and muscle layers. Staging also describes if the cancer is still in the pelvic area or has spread to other distant organs (metastasis). Staging will help your doctor to plan the best treatment for you.

In cancer of the uterus there are two different staging systems. 

  • TNM staging system
  • FIGO staging system 

TNM staging

  • Tumour (T): The size and depth of the tumour.
  • Node (N): Is there cancer in your lymph nodes? N0 mean no lymph nodes affected, N1, N2, N3 refer to the number of lymph nodes affected and where they are located.
  • Metastasis (M): M1 means the cancer has spread to other parts of your body and M0 means it hasn’t.

Your doctor often uses this information to give your cancer a number stage – from 1 to 4. A higher number, such as stage 4, means a more advanced cancer. Some stages are further divided into stage A and B.

In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.

FIGO staging

The FIGO staging system is similar. The different stages are given a number I (1) to IV (4). 
Each number stage is sub divided using letters a, b and c. For example, stage Ia, stage IIc, etc. Again, the higher the letter and number within each stage, the more advanced the disease.

Staging can be hard to understand, so ask your doctor and nurse for more information if you need it.

For more information

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