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Cervical cancer occurs when there is a cancerous growth on the cervix. Stage 4 cervical cancer is considered to be the most advanced stage of this type of cancer. In this stage, cancer has spread from the female productive organs to other areas of the body. Diagnosing cervical cancer involves a thorough physical examination, and treatment usually includes surgery.
In women, the cervix is the lower one-third of the uterus, also known as the womb. It makes up the narrow neck of the uterus as well as the opening to the endocervical canal, or vagina. This opening is referred to as the os. When there is a cancerous growth on the cervix, doctors refer to this as cervical cancer. Many times, this cancer can spread to other parts of the body if treatment is not begun promptly. Stage 4 cervical cancer is the most advanced stage.
There are two sub-stages of stage 4 cervical cancer. In stage 4A, the cancer has spread to nearby areas of the body. This can include the rectum and bladder. During this stage, the cancer may have also spread to the lymph nodes.
The second sub-stage of stage 4 cervical cancer is a little worse. In this sub-stage, the cancer has traveled farther away from the pelvic region to vital organs that are farther away. This can include organs like the liver and lungs.
A physical examination, particularly a pelvic examination, is one of the main methods for diagnosing stage 4 cervical cancer. During this examination, a cancerous growth may be seen on the cervix. A biopsy may also be performed, which involves removing a small chunk of cervical tissue. This tissue is then studied under a microscope for signs of abnormal cell growth.
Generally, the prognosis for stage 4 cervical cancer is not as hopeful as for earlier stages of cervical cancer. Research suggests that roughly 15% of patients survive, if diagnosed with cervical cancer in this stage. This is compared to a 90% survival rate for patients who are diagnosed in the early stages.
With aggressive treatment, however, the prognosis of stage 4 cervical cancer improves. Surgery is often performed to remove cancerous cells. Additionally, a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy can greatly improve the chances of survival as well.
There are several risk factors for cervical cancer, including tobacco use. Multiple pregnancies may also put a woman at higher risk of getting cervical cancer, and some research suggests that some women may have a genetic predisposition to this disease. Sexually transmitted diseases are also a major risk factor for cervical cancer. The human papilloma virus (HPV), for example, is discovered in nearly all patients with cervical cancer.