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There are four stages of endometrial cancer, or cancer of the uterus. In the first stage, the cancerous cells are confined to the uterus itself, while in the second, they can be found on the cervix as well as in the uterus. When the cancer has spread into the rest of the woman’s reproductive system, it is in stage three. Spread to other systems or other regions of the body indicates that the cancer is in stage four. Each of these endometrial cancer stages is further divided into sub-stages.
The cancer begins in the lining of the uterus in stage IA, in which all of the cancerous cells are confined to the inside of the organ. It spreads through the uterine tissue toward the outside of the woman’s body, moving into the inner level of the muscle tissue of the uterus in stage IB and into the outer layer of the muscle tissue in stage IC. When detected at any point during the first stage, this type of cancer has a low risk of mortality.
Once endometrial cancer leaves the uterus, it enters into the second of the endometrial cancer stages. The glands between the uterus and cervix are infected with cancerous cells in stage IIA, and the tissue of the cervix itself becomes involved in stage IIB. Both endometrial cancer stages I and II are confined to the uterus and cervix and can often be completely treated by the removal of this organ.
Cancer that has spread beyond the reach of stage II endometrial cancer is much more difficult to treat than cancer in stages I and II. Stage IIIA is defined in several different ways. The cancer may have spread to the outside layer of the uterus, to the area just beyond, or to the lining of the abdominal cavity itself. In stage IIIB, the cancerous cells also invade the vagina, and the nearby lymph nodes become infected in stage IIIC.
In the final endometrial cancer stages, the diseased tissue spreads beyond the reproductive system. The bladder and bowels can be affected in stage IVA. The rest of the body, especially the lymph nodes in the abdomen can show cancerous growths in stage IVB. This stage is the hardest to treat because there is so much cancerous tissue that it cannot be easily removed.
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