If, after receiving the results of your biopsy, you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, your consultant will order more tests to find out to what type of cervical cancer you have, the extent the cancer has progressed and if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

There are two main types of cervical cancer:

  • Squamous cell - eight out of 10 (80%) cervical cancers are diagnosed as squamous cell. Squamous cell cancers are composed of the flat cells that cover the surface of the cervix and often begin where the ectocervix joins the endocervix.
  • Adenocarcinoma – more than one in 10 cervical cancers are diagnosed as adenocarcinoma (15 - 20%). The cancer develops in the glandular cells which line the cervical canal. This type of cancer can be more difficult to detect with cervical screening tests because it develops within the cervical canal.

Adenosquamous cancers are tumours that contain both squamous and glandular cancer cells. Other rare types of cervical cancer can include clear cell, small cell undifferentiated, lymphomas and sarcomas.

Cervical cancer staging

You may be asked to have various diagnostic test which help understand your cancer better. These could include: a pelvic examination, an MRI or PET-CT, chest x-ray or blood tests. Your consultant needs information to understand the extent your cancer has progressed and if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This process is called staging. Knowing the stage of the disease helps your consultant plan treatment.

Carcinoma of the cervix: staging cervical cancer (primary tumour and metastases)

The following stages are used to describe cancer of the cervix:

  • Stage 1a: Cancer involves the cervix but has not spread to nearby tissue. A very small amount of cancer that is only visible under a microscope is found deeper in the tissues of the cervix.
  • Stage 1b: Cancer involves the cervix but has not spread nearby. A larger amount of cancer is found in the tissues of the cervix.
  • Stage 2a: Cancer has spread to nearby areas but is still inside the pelvic area. Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the upper two thirds of the vagina.
  • Stage 2b: Cancer has spread to nearby areas but is still inside the pelvic area. Cancer has spread to the tissue around the cervix.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread throughout the pelvic area. Cancer cells may have spread to the lower part of the vagina. The cells also may have spread to block the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters).
  • Stage 4a: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bladder or rectum (organs close to the cervix).
  • Stage 4b: Cancer has spread to distant organs such as the lungs.

"Types of Stages of Cervical Cancer." Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. N.p., 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.