Cervical Cancer Treatment

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Cervical cancer treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these treatments.

Precancer Treatments

Laser Surgery

This procedure can be used to treat CIN and stage 0 cervical cancer. A laser beam is an intense, narrow beam of light which heats and kills the abnormal cells. The laser removes the abnormal cells directly on the cervix.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery can be used to remove CIN (Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia) and stage 0 cervical cancer by freezing off the abnormal cells. Nitrogen or carbon dioxide liquid is applied to a probe, which is inserted through the vagina. The substance is applied to the cervix. 

Conization

Conization is the removal of a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. It can be done with a scalpel, cold knife, laser beam, or loop electrosurgery (LEEP). A LEEP procedure uses a thin wire that is heated by an electric current. Conization treats CIN or stage IA1 cervical cancer. After the tissue is removed, it is examined to see if the margins around the sample are clear of any abnormal cells. This helps determine if further treatment is needed.

Early-Stage Cervical Cancer

Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is surgical removal of the uterus and cervix. Sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed as well. The doctor may choose to remove pelvic lymph nodes near the uterus to determine if or where the cancer has spread.

Surgery for Advanced Cervical Cancer 

Pelvic Exteneration

If the cancer has spread beyond the cervix into nearby organs, a more extensive procedure will be necessary. These procedures may involve the vagina, urinary bladder, rectum, or lower portion of the colon.

Pelvic Lymph Node Dissection

Cancer can spread to the lymph nodes located in the pelvic region outside of the uterus. Once there, it can travel to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system. During surgery, some or all lymph nodes suspected of having cancer will be removed and examined under a microscope. 

Radiation Therapy

External Beam Radiation

Radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at the cancer. Generally, radiation therapy is given 5 days per week for 5-6 weeks. At the end of the treatment, the tumor site often gets an extra dose of radiation.

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy delivers high-dose radiation directly to the area affected. A capsule containing radioactive materials is placed directly into the cervix. Another one may be placed in the vagina against the outside of the cervix.

This capsule is usually left in place for 1-3 days, and the treatment may be repeated several days over the course of 1-2 weeks. Hospitalization may be needed while the implants are in place. Another option may be taking radiation delivery in minutes instead of days. This eliminates the need for hospitalization.

Chemotherapy and Chemoradiation

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cervical cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body to the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used:

  • Before surgery—to shrink the tumor and decrease the amount of tissue that needs to be removed
  • In combination with radiation therapy to decrease tumor size
  • To help relieve symptoms of metastatic cancer and extend survival time

For some stages of cervical cancer, the preferred treatment is radiation and chemo given together, called concurrent chemoradiation

Chemotherapy for cervical cancer is most often given through an IV, though some forms can be given by mouth. It is delivered in cycles over a set period of time. Generally, there are 4-6 cycles when chemotherapy is used alone and up to 10 cycles when combined with radiation therapy.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.