If endometrial 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 Spreading of Cancer

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body:

Through tissue. 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 endometrial cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually endometrial cancer cells. The disease is metastatic endometrial cancer, not bone cancer.

Stages of Endometrial Cancer

Stage I -- The cancer is only in the body of the uterus. It is not in the cervix.

Stage II -- The cancer has spread from the body of the uterus to the cervix.

Stage III -- The cancer has spread outside the uterus, but not outside the pelvis (and not to the bladder or rectum). Lymph nodes in the pelvis may contain cancer cells.

Stage IV -- The cancer has spread into the bladder or rectum. Or it has spread beyond the pelvis to other body parts.

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