Vaginal cancer staging describes how large a cancer is, and the degree to which the disease has spread. Vaginal cancer stages are based on three categories:
T (tumor): This describes the primary tumor size.
N (node): This indicates whether the vaginal cancer cells have spread to regional lymph nodes.
M (metastasis): This refers to whether the cancer has metastasized (spread to distant areas of the body).
Once the individual T, N, M components are scored, they are combined to determine the overall stage group, which will be one of the following.
Stage 0: This stage is also known as vaginal epithelial neoplasia 3 (VAIN 3), or carcinoma in situ. Cancer cells are restricted to the top epithelial layer of cells lining the vagina and have not invaded any deeper.
Stage I (stage 1 vaginal cancer): The cancer cells have invaded deeper tissue layers of the vagina, but they have not spread beyond the vagina to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
Stage II (stage 2 vaginal cancer): Cancer cells have reached the connective tissue surrounding the vagina but have not yet spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes.
Stage III (stage 3 vaginal cancer): Cancer has spread beyond the vagina to the walls of the pelvis and/or nearby lymph nodes, but it has not spread to distant organs.
Stage IV (stage 4 vaginal cancer): Stage IV vaginal cancer is divided into two separate subcategories:
Next topic: How is vaginal cancer diagnosed?