Cancer occurs when cells divide uncontrollably and invade other organs. According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths in the United States. To gauge the spread and prognosis of cervical cancer, a staging system is used based on the spread of cervical cancer. Prognosis of the disease, how long the patient will live, is largely dependent on the stage of cancer at which treatment is started.
Cancer is an uncontrolled proliferation of cells. As the cells continue to divide, they interrupt the normal functioning of tissues and organs nearby. There are many causes for cancer, yet some causes are unknown. Known causes include genetic mutations from chemical, radiological and biological exposures. Biological exposures include viral infections. According to the National Cancer Institute, two types of human papillomavirus infections account for more than 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases.
According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2007 more than 11,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with cancer of the uterine cervix, the part of the uterus that comes into contact with the top end of the vagina. Part of the diagnosis of cervical cancer is staging, or grading, the spread of the cancer.
Staging cervical cancer helps in treatment and prognosis of cervical cancer. The staging is done by looking at the cancer cells and whether or not they have spread. In stage 0, only the topmost layers of cells in the cervix are cancerous. At stage 1, the cancer is minimally visible, but it has not spread beyond the cervix. At stage 2, the cancer cells have spread beyond the cervix to nearby tissues of the vagina or uterus. At stage 3, the cancer cells, now a solid mass called a tumor, have spread to the pelvic regions, many times blocking the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder. At stage 4, the cancer has spread to other organs or tissues in the body.
The prognosis of cancer is given by five-year survival rates. That is, what percentage of patients with a type of cancer will survive for five years with adequate treatment? As the stage number increases, the survival rate decreases. At stage 0 to 1, survival rates are higher than 95 percent. At stage 2, survival rates are about 75 percent. At stage 3, the survival rates drop to about 50 percent. At stage 4, survival rates are below 30 percent.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 50 percent of women with stage three cervical cancer will survive more than five years, given proper treatment. These are average results seen in survival studies done by different researchers and put forth by the American Joint Committee on Cancer. Because everyone reacts to treatment differently, and cancer at any stage can be beat or placed into remission (dormancy), prognoses must be given by a health care provider on a case-by-case basis.