|How Does Vaginal Cancer Spread?
Like all cancers, cancer of the vagina can spread through the body in 3 ways:
Through tissue: the cancer invades surrounding tissues.
Through the lymph system: enabling it to invade other parts of the body.
Through the blood: traveling through the veins to invade other parts of the body.
If cancer breaks away from its original primary tumor and travels to other parts of the body through the blood or lymph system, it can cause a secondary tumor to develop. This process is known as metastasis. The secondary tumor is same form of cancer as the primary tumor. So if vaginal cancer spreads to the lungs and forms a tumor, it is still known as vaginal cancer. The disease is metastatic vaginal cancer and not lung cancer.
Read about survival statistics for each stage:
Vaginal Cancer Survival Rates
How Is It Staged?
All cancer staging is usually done according to two systems: The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics System (FIGO) and the American Joint Committee on Cancers (AJCC) TNM Classification. Both broadly correspond and we have included both systems here. The TNM definition bases staging on the size of the primary tumor (T), the amount of lymph nodes affected (N) and if there is metastasis (M). So for example, the least invasive cancer with no sign of a tumor would be reported as T0 N0 M0. The following is a more exact definition of each TNM classification in relation to vaginal cancer.
Primary Tumor (T)
TX: The primary tumor cannot be assessed.
T0: There is no evidence of a primary tumor.
Tis/0: Vaginal carcinoma in situ (VAIN).
T1: There is a tumor and it is confined to the vagina.
T2: The tumor has invaded paravaginal tissues but not the pelvic wall.
T3: The tumor has reached the pelvic wall.
T4: Tumor invades the bladder or rectum and/or extends beyond the pelvis.
Regional lymph nodes (N)
NX: The regional nodes cannot be assessed.
N0: Cancer has not spread to regional lymph nodes - i.e. no metastasis.
N1: Cancer has spread to the pelvic or inguinal lymph node - i.e. there is metastasis.
Distant metastasis (M)
MX: Distant metastasis cannot be assessed
M0: No evidence cancer has invaded other parts of the body - i.e. no distant metastasis.
M1/IVB: Cancer has invaded other organs - i.e. distant metastasis.
What Are The Stages?
Stages Of Vaginal Cancer Using the FIGO Staging System and TNM Classification
FIGO Stage 0: Vaginal Carcinoma in Situ
TNM: Tis, N0, M0
This stage is also known as Vaginal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VAIN). This is where abnormal cells which are considered precancerous are found in the inside of the vagina during a routine Pap test. There are rarely any symptoms of vaginal cancer at this point. As VAIN often occurs in combination with carcinoma in situ of the vulva and cervix, these areas should also be carefully examined. There are different vaginal cancer treatment options available for stage 0, all of which produce equal cure rates.
FIGO Stage 1
TNM: T1, N0, M0
Cancer is found but limited to the vagina. A vaginal cancer diagnosis will indicate which type of cancer is present. 85 percent of cases will be squamous cell carcinoma; much of the remainder will be adenocarcinoma. The 5 year survival rate for women with stage 1 is 84 percent. Most of course go on to live beyond 5 years and many are in fact cured.
FIGO Stage 2
TNM: T2, N0, M0
Cancer has spread from the vagina to surrounding tissue. It does not extend to the pelvic wall. The 5 year survival rate is 75 percent.
FIGO Stage 3
TNM: T1, N1, M0 or/ T2, N1, M0 or/ T3, N0, M0 or/T3, N1, M0
Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes of the pelvic wall or pubic bone (pubic symphysis). The 5 year survival rate is reduced to 57 percent.
This stage is subdivided into two further stages:
FIGO Stage 4A
TNM: T4, any N, M0
Cancerous cells may have spread to the pelvis, lymph nodes and/or groin area. They may also have spread beyond the pelvis to the rectum or bladder.
FIGO Stage 4B
TNM: Any T, any N, M1
Cancer has spread to distant organs such as the bones or lungs.
The 5 year survival rate is for stage 4 is the same as stage 3 (i.e. 57 percent).
Other Gynecologic Cancers, see:
• Breast Cancer Staging
• Cervical Cancer Stages
• Ovarian Cancer Stages
• Fallopian Tube Cancer Staging
• Endometrial Cancer Staging
• Vulva Cancer Staging