Uterine cancer is cancer of the uterus. After diagnosis, doctors determine how far the cancer has spread and assign a stage between 1 and 4. The higher the number, the more advanced the cancer.

Uterine cancer stages range from 1–4. Lower numbers indicate less cancer spread, while a higher number, such as stage 4, means cancer has spread to other body areas.

Some cancer staging assigns letters alongside numbers. An earlier letter in the alphabet, such as “A,” represents a lower stage than “C.”

Uterine cancer staging can be complex and difficult to understand. A healthcare professional will help explain staging to people with uterine cancer. Each person’s cancer is unique, but staging can help doctors determine outlook and treatment.

This article examines the stages of uterine cancer and what they mean. We also discuss the survival rate of each uterine cancer stage and whether it is curable.

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Stage 1 uterine cancer means that cancer is growing in the uterus only. Doctors divide stage 1 into the following categories to describe how far cancer has spread: Stage 1A and Stage 1B.

Stage 1A means the cancer is in the membrane lining the uterus (endometrium) or less than halfway through the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus (myometrium).

Stage 1B means the cancer has grown into the myometrium more than halfway but has not spread beyond the body of the uterus.

In stage 2 uterine cancer, the cancer spreads into the connective tissue of the cervix but not outside the uterus.

During stage 3 uterine cancer, the cancer spreads beyond the uterus and cervix but not into the lining of the rectum or urinary bladder.

Doctors divide stage 3 into the following categories on the basis of how far the cancer has spread:

  • Stage 3A: Cancer has grown into the outer lining of the uterus (serosa), fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
  • Stage 3B: Cancer has spread to the fat and connective tissues surrounding the uterus (parametrium) or the vagina.
  • Stage 3C: Cancer has spread to the pelvic lymph nodes or lymph nodes around the aorta.

Stage 4 uterine cancer occurs when cancer spreads beyond the pelvis. Doctors divide this stage into stages 4A and 4B.

Stage 4A means the cancer has spread to the urinary bladder or rectum.

Stage 4B means the cancer has spread to areas outside the pelvis, such as the abdomen and lymph nodes in the groin. It may also have spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, liver, or bones.

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute groups survival rates according to the following criteria:

  • Localized: Cancer has not spread outside of the uterus.
  • Regional: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or structures.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to distant body parts.

According to SEER, the 5-year relative survival rates for localized, regional, and distant uterine cancer are as follows:

  • Localized: 95.1%
  • Regional: 69.1%
  • Distant: 17.8%
  • All stages combined: 81.6%

A 5-year survival rate compares people with the same type and stage of uterine cancer with the general population.

For example, the 5-year survival rate for all stages of uterine cancer combined is 81.6%. This means that those with any stage of uterine cancer are approximately 81.6% as likely as those who do not have that cancer to be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

The most common form of uterine cancer — endometrial cancer — is curable because doctors typically diagnose and treat it in the early stages.

The survival rates for uterine cancer significantly decrease when the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.

Another form of uterine cancer — uterine sarcoma — tends to be more aggressive and challenging to treat.

After diagnosis, doctors stage uterine cancer from stages 1–4. A higher stage number means more severe cancer and poorer survival rates.

Doctors describe uterine cancer stages as follows:

  • Stage 1: Cancer remains in the uterus only.
  • Stage 2: Cancer spreads to the cervix but remains in the uterus.
  • Stage 3: Cancer spreads to the vagina, ovaries, or lymph nodes but not outside the pelvis.
  • Stage 4: Cancer spreads to the bladder or distant organs.

Uterine cancer is treatable, especially when a person receives an early diagnosis.

Some types of uterine cancer can be challenging to treat. Uterine cancer can also be difficult to treat when it spreads.