Cervical cancer

Understanding your diagnosis

Cervical cancer

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Your test results provide a lot of information about your cancer.

This may include:

  • the cells it started in (cancer type)
  • whether it has spread from where it started (cancer stage).

Your specialist uses this information to explain how the cancer could affect you in the future (your prognosis), and what your treatment options are. Your specialist may arrange further tests if more information is required.

What you need to know

Types of cervical cancer

There are several types of cervical cancer. These are described by the sort of cell the cancer started in. The two main types of cervical cancer are:

  • squamous cell cancer – the most common type
  • adenocarcinoma.

Other rarer types of cervical cancer include:

  • small cell cancer
  • lymphomas
  • sarcomas.
The way cancers are described and named can be confusing. Ask your doctor to explain what type of cancer you have and anything else you should know about it.

Cervical cancer stage

The stage of a cancer is how large it is and how far it has spread when it is first diagnosed.

Knowing the stage of a cancer helps doctors to work out the best treatment options. It also means the person with cancer can fully understand their situation and discuss any concerns they have.

The stages of cervical cancer are:

  • Stage 1 – the cancer is only in the cervix.
  • Stage 2 – it has spread past the cervix and into surrounding tissue.
  • Stage 3 – the cancer has spread into the lower part of the vagina, lymph nodes or to the sides of the pelvis.
  • Stage 4 – there is spread to the bladder or bowel or beyond the pelvic area.

What to ask or talk about

Talking about prognosis

Prognosis means what is likely to happen to you in the future because of your cancer. You may find it hard to talk about prognosis but it can help you make decisions about the treatment and care you want.

Everyone’s cancer is different, and everyone responds differently to treatment. Because of this, doctors can’t tell you exactly what will happen to you. Instead, they can give you the best information they have about what to expect.

Doctors work out prognosis based on statistics. These show what happens in large groups of people with cancer. They cannot predict what will happen to you or any other individual person. 

checklist Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Treatment planning

Your specialist will share information about you and your cancer with a multidisciplinary team (MDT) to decide the best treatment options for you.

You may need more than one type of treatment or have a choice of treatments. You may also need to see other specialists during treatment planning.

Dealing with your diagnosis

Getting a cancer diagnosis is very distressing for the person with cancer, and their carers, family and friends. Different people react in different ways. They can be upset and angry or just in shock. Many people find it difficult to take in all the information and understand what it will mean for them.

The situation can be especially difficult for people who get a diagnosis of advanced cancer. 

If you need to speak to someone about your diagnosis, you can call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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