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Stage 1 Cervical Cancer 101

Stage 1 cervical cancer is when the cancer is confined to the cervix. Thanks to modern medicine, prognosis and treatment for this condition have improved greatly over the years. Let’s talk more about stage 1 cervical cancer symptoms, staging, and treatment.

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the lower portion of the uterus, called the cervix. Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent type of cancer that affects women.

The most important risk factor for the development of cervical cancer is infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly by a high-risk strain of HPV.

Cervical cancer can be divided into different stages through a system known as the FIGO Classification for Cervical Cancer. The stages of cervical cancer are:

  • Stage 1 — The cancer has spread from the cells that line the cervix to deeper tissues, but it’s still confined to the cervix.
  • Stage 2 — The cancer is still inside the pelvic cavity, but it has spread beyond the uterus.
  • Stage 3 — The tumor has spread to the lower third of the vagina, pelvic wall, and/or regional lymph nodes. It could also be impairing kidney function or causing hydronephrosis (swelling of the kidneys).
  • Stage 4A — The cancer has spread to the rectum or bladder.
  • Stage 4B — The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.

The best way to detect cervical cancer early is by getting regular gynecological check-ups. During a check-up, your doctor will probably take your personal and family history, perform a physical and pelvic exam, and take samples for a Pap smear.

Pap smears are recommended every 3 years between the ages of 21 and 29, and a Pap smear and HPV test is recommended every 3 to 5 years between the ages of 30 and 65.

The best way to detect cervical cancer early is by getting regular gynecological check-ups.

A colposcopy is often performed if the doctor finds abnormal changes in your Pap smear. During a colposcopy, the doctor will use a speculum to keep the vagina open and a large electric microscope with a light, called a colposcope, to examine the cervix. Colposcopies are very safe procedures — it only takes 10 to 20 minutes. The colposcope stays outside of the body for the procedure.

The doctor may take small samples of tissue for a biopsy and/or remove abnormal cells if detected. They may perform an endocervical curettage at the same time to collect cells from the cervical canal. Colposcopies are also used in cases of cervical ectropion, genital warts, cervicitis, and other conditions.

Pap smears are recommended every 3 years between the ages of 21 and 29, and a Pap smear and HPV test is recommended every 3 to 5 years between the ages of 30 and 65.

If the results of a colposcopy or biopsy point to cancer, further tests may be needed, such as:

  • A pelvic examination performed under general anesthesia
  • Magnetic resonance imaging 
  • Computed tomography or CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • Positron emission tomography

Having stage 1 cervical cancer means that the malignant cells are confined to the cervix. This stage can be subdivided into more specific categories:

  • Stage 1A — The carcinoma can only be diagnosed using a microscope. 
  1. Stage 1A1 — The tumor is less than 3 millimeters deep.
  2. Stage 1A2 — The tumor is 3 to 5 millimeters deep.
  • Stage 1B — The carcinoma is larger but still only affects the cervix.
  1. Stage 1B1 — The tumor is 5 millimeters deep or more, but less than 2 centimeters wide.
  2. Stage 1B2 — The tumor is 2 centimeters deep or more, but less than 4 centimeters wide.
  3. Stage 1B3 — The tumor is 4 centimeters deep or more.

Stage 1 cervical cancer usually doesn’t cause any discernible signs or symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to get regular check-ups to detect it as early as possible. More advanced stages of cervical cancer can cause symptoms such as:

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods, after menopause, or after sex
  • Pelvic pain during sex
  • Longer or heavier periods than usual
  • Unexplained pelvic or back pain
  • Watery, bloody discharge that may or may not have a foul smell

The best treatment for stage 1 cervical cancer varies for each person. There are many factors that need to be considered, such as fertility goals, age, other medical conditions, and whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels.

For people who want to be able to get pregnant in the future, treatment options include the following:

  • A cone biopsy is when the doctor removes a cone-shaped wedge of tissue from the cervix to examine it and remove malignant cells. If the edges of the wedge don’t contain cancer cells, you might not need any other treatment. If the edges do contain cancer cells, you will need other procedures to remove the cancer entirely. The doctor may also remove pelvic lymph nodes during this procedure.
  • Radical trachelectomy involves removing the cervix and the upper portion of the vagina but preserving the rest of the uterus. The doctor may also remove the pelvic lymph nodes.

For people who don’t want to preserve fertility, cervical cancer treatment options include the following:

  • In a simple hysterectomy, the doctor removes the uterus and cervix, leaving the vagina, uterine tubes, ovaries, and lymph nodes in tact.
  • In a radical hysterectomy, in addition to the uterus and cervix, the doctor also removes part of the vagina and pelvic or para-aortic lymph nodes. The surgeon may also remove the ovaries, uterine tubes, and other nearby tissue.

The doctor may also suggest radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Radiotherapy can be external (external beam radiation therapy) or internal (brachytherapy). These treatments can be used separately or together, and your medical team will help you decide the best course of action for you.

Approximately 95 percent of people with stage 1 cervical cancer survive for 5 or more years after treatment.

The medical team will use imaging tests, such as CT scans, to determine the exact location of the tumor to ensure that the treatment is as accurate as possible. It’s important to prepare for possible side effects, consider taking time off work, and get support from your loved ones during treatment.

Thanks to modern medicine, the prognosis for stage 1 cervical cancer is very good. Approximately 95 percent of people with stage 1 cervical cancer survive for 5 or more years after treatment. Many factors can affect life expectancy for cervical cancer, and stage 1 means that your condition was diagnosed early.

Stage 1 cervical cancer is when the cancer is confined to the cervix and hasn’t spread to other organs. Since cervical cancer is unlikely to cause symptoms so early on, it’s very important to get regular Pap smears to maintain your health.

If you’ve been diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer, your medical team will consider many factors to help you decide on the best treatment for you. Fortunately, there are many options available, and thanks to an early diagnosis, the prognosis is usually very good.

https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/patient/cervical-treatment-pdq

https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/stages

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cervical-cancer/stages-types-grades/stage-1

https://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/diagnosis-screening/cervical-cancer/en/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colposcopy/treatment/

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cervical-cancer/getting-diagnosed/tests-diagnose/cone-biopsy

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/abdominal-hysterectomy/about/pac-20384559

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cervical-cancer/survival

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