Vaginal Cancer Staging 

Updated: Jan 08, 2015
  • Author: from Memorial Sloan-Kettering - Elizabeth L Jewell, MD, MHSc; Chief Editor: from Memorial Sloan-Kettering - Yukio Sonoda, MD  more...
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TNM and FIGO Staging for Vaginal Cancer

The TNM and International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) classifications for staging vaginal cancer are provided below (see Tables 1 and 2). [1, 2]

Table 1. TNM and FIGO Staging for Vaginal Cancer (Open Table in a new window)

Primary tumor (T)
TNM FIGO Definition
TX   Primary tumor cannot be assessed
T0   No evidence of a primary tumor
Tis*   Carcinoma in situ (preinvasive)
T1 I Tumor confined to the vagina
T2 II Tumor invades paravaginal tissues but does not extend to pelvic wall
T3 III Tumor extends to pelvic wall
T4 IVA Tumor invades mucosa of the bladder or rectum or shows direct extension beyond the true pelvis; bullous edema is not sufficient to allow classification as T4
Regional lymph nodes (N)
TNM FIGO Definition
NX   Regional lymph nodes cannot be assessed
N0   No regional lymph node metastasis
N1 III Regional (pelvic or inguinal) lymph node metastasis
Distant metastasis (M)
TNM FIGO Definition
M0   No distant metastasis
M1 IVB Distant metastasis
* FIGO no longer includes stage 0 (Tis).

Pelvic wall is defined as muscle, fascia, neurovascular structures, or skeletal portions of the bony pelvis. On rectal examination, there is no cancer-free space between the tumor and pelvic sidewalls.

Table 2. Anatomic Stage/Prognostic Groups (Open Table in a new window)

Stage TNM
0* Tis N0 M0
I T1 N0 M0
II T2 N0 M0




IVA T4 Any N M0
IVB Any T Any N M1
* FIGO no longer includes stage 0.

Rules of staging include the following:

  • As with cervical cancer, FIGO uses clinical staging for vaginal cancer because many patients do not undergo surgical management for this condition; the clinical stage of vaginal cancer must not be changed because of subsequent findings once treatment has started
  • In cases treated with a definitive surgical procedure, the pathology findings should not be allowed to change the clinical staging, but they may be recorded as the pathologic staging of disease; the pTNM classification of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) is appropriate for this purpose, as described in the tables above
  • All data available before the initiation of definitive treatment can and should be used to determine the clinical stage of vaginal cancer; these data include all imaging studies and the results of biopsies or fine-needle aspiration of lymph nodes
  • When there is doubt about the stage to which a particular case should be allocated, the lesser stage should be used
  • Suspected involvement of the bladder or rectal mucosa must be confirmed by means of biopsy
  • According to FIGO, cases with clinical involvement of the cervix or the vulva should be classified as primary cervical or vulvar cancers, respectively; tumors limited to the urethra should be classified as urethral cancers