According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), this year, more than 14,000 people will find out they have cervical cancer. For many, the first questions will be “Can this cancer be cured?” and “Am I going to survive?”
Cervical cancer is curable, and survival rates are high if you’re diagnosed and treated early. The key is early detection.
Cervical cancer used to have lower survival rates than it does today. Regular cervical cancer screenings and better treatments have led to much higher survival rates in recent decades.
This article will take a closer look at survival rates for each stage of cervical cancer, along with steps you can take to improve your outlook.
Survival rates are usually measured in percentages. They tell you how likely it is that people with the same kind of cancer, detected at the same stage, will be alive 5 years from now.
A relative survival rate compares the survival rates of people with cancer and people who don’t have cancer
According to the ACS, researchers base survival rates on statistics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The NCI tracks cancer diagnoses and the survival rates each year. The NCI groups cancers according to how far the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis. For instance:
- Localized. This category is used when cancer cells have been found in your cervix and uterus, but no cancer has been found in surrounding tissue.
- Regional. This category is when cancer has spread beyond your cervix and uterus into your surrounding lymph nodes.
- Distant. This category is when cancer that first grew in your cervix has spread to other organs, bones, and areas of your body.
Your doctor may use a different staging system for a diagnosis. The ACS says that the FIGO staging system, developed by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, ranks cervical cancer progression by stage as follows:
Cervical cancer stages
- Stage 0. At this stage, cancer cells have been found on the surface of your cervix.
- Stage 1. During this stage, cancer cells have been found deeper within your cervix, but the cancer cells haven’t spread to other structures.
- Stage 2. At this stage, cancer cells have been found in your cervix and uterus, but they haven’t spread into your vagina or pelvic area.
- Stage 3. During this stage, cancer cells have been found in your lower vagina or pelvic walls. Cancer cells could be blocking your urinary tubes, and they may have spread to your pelvic lymph nodes.
- Stage 4. At this stage, cancer cells have been found in other parts of your body, such as your lungs or bones.
The ACS says that the relative survival rates published by the NCI are based on the outcomes of cervical cancer cases diagnosed between 2010 and 2016.
Your cancer care team will be able to give you a clearer picture of your treatment options and the likelihood of a good outcome, based on your age and your health.
Cervical cancer survival rates
- Localized. This type of cancer has a 92 percent relative survival rate. It means that if cancer is detected while it’s still confined to your cervix and uterus, you are 92 percent as likely to be alive in 5 years, compared to a person who doesn’t have cervical cancer.
- Regional. This type of cancer has a 58 percent relative survival rate. If cervical cancer has spread to your uterus and nearby lymph nodes, you are 58 percent as likely to be alive in 5 years as someone who doesn’t have cervical cancer.
- Distant. This cancer has a 17 percent relative survival rate. If cervical cancer has spread to parts of your body that aren’t close to your cervix, you are 17 percent as likely to be alive in 5 years as a person with no cervical cancer.
- All stages of cervical cancer combined. This cancer has a 66 percent survival rate. If you have cervical cancer, you are 66 percent as likely as someone without cervical cancer to be alive in 5 years time.
These numbers may not be an accurate reflection of your outlook. Many individual factors can influence the progression of cancer and how your body responds to treatment.
It’s important to talk with your oncologist and other people on your cancer care team. They can provide you with information and suggestions on what you can do to improve the outcome of your cancer treatment.
As with most types of cancer, early detection is key to a good outcome. In the early stages, cervical cancer doesn’t usually have symptoms, so many people with the condition don’t know they have it.
Regular cervical cancer screenings can identify precancerous cells before they grow into cancers that can endanger your health and your life.
Newer screening tests look for the presence of the human papilloma virus (HPV) because the HPV virus causes almost all cervical cancers.
Your healthcare professional can screen you for HPV virus alone or combined with a traditional PAP test.
Cervical cancer screening guidelines
The ACS recommends that you:
- begin cervical cancer screening when you’re 25 years old
- have an HPV test once every 5 years if you’re 25 to 65 years old
- or have a Pap smear (also called a Pap test) every 3 years if you’re 25 to 65 years old
- or have a combination HPV and Pap test every 5 years if you’re 25 to 65 years old
- talk with a healthcare professional about how often you should be screened if you have an immune condition (such as HIV or an organ transplant) that may make you more vulnerable to cancer
You can stop having cervical cancer screenings if you:
According to a 2017 study, around
- Talk with your doctor about an open radical hysterectomy. A
2020 research reviewof the research showed that people have better survival rates with an open radical hysterectomy than they do with less invasive treatments.
- Go to your follow-up appointments. Your doctor will order lab tests and watch for new symptoms to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back. If it does return, there’s a lower risk of treatment being delayed.
- Try to quit smoking. Smoking during and after your cancer treatment may decrease your chance of survival, according to a
small 2018 study.
- Exercise regularly. A
2020 research reviewshowed that regular physical activity improves the survival rate of people with cancer and reduces the risk of the cancer returning.
- Eat a nutritious diet. According to a
2016 research review, a higher intake of fruit, vegetables, and fish may improve cancer survival rates, while a higher consumption of red meat, processed snack foods, and alcohol may reduce survival rates.
- Talk with a therapist or counselor if you need to process what’s happening. Although cervical cancer has a high survival rate when it’s diagnosed early, going through cancer treatment isn’t easy. You might find it helpful to talk about your experiences with a supportive professional.
If cervical cancer is detected and treated early, while it is still located only in your cervix and uterus, the survival rate is around 92 percent.
If cervical cancer spreads to nearby lymph nodes, or to other organs or other areas of your body, the survival rate is lower.
Early detection is key to a better overall outcome with cervical cancer. Regular HPV or Pap tests can help identify cancer in its early stages and, together with your healthcare team, you can decide on the treatment plan that best optimizes your outlook.