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Vaginal cancer stages

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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:

  • Stage IVA: The disease has spread beyond the vagina to nearby organs such as the bladder or rectum. Cancer cells may have reached nearby lymph nodes, but they have not reached distant organs.
  • Stage IVB: This stage is the most advanced. Cancer cells have reached distant organs, such as the lungs.

Next topic: How is vaginal cancer diagnosed?

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