If cervical cancer is diagnosed, the doctor needs to know the stage, or extent, of the disease to plan the best treatment. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread, and if so, to what parts of the body.
The doctor may determine the stage of oropharyngeal cancer at the time of diagnosis, or may need to give the patient more tests. Such tests may include imaging tests -- CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bone scan, or x-ray.
The Spreading of Cancer
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body:
Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
Through the lymph system.
Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
Through the blood.
Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.
When cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another, or secondary tumor, may form. This process is called metastasis.
The secondary, or metastatic, tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if cervical cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually cervical cancer cells. The disease is metastatic cervical cancer, not bone cancer.
Cervical Cancer Stages
The tumor has invaded the cervix beneath the top layer of cells. Cancer cells are found only in the cervix.
The tumor extends to the upper part of the vagina. It may extend beyond the cervix into nearby tissues toward the pelvic wall (the lining of the part of the body between the hips). The tumor does not invade the lower third of the vagina or the pelvic wall.
The tumor extends to the lower part of the vagina. It may also have invaded the pelvic wall. If the tumor blocks the flow of urine, one or both kidneys may not be working well.
The tumor invades the bladder or rectum. Or the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.