Cervical Cancer Treatment
For women with cervical cancer, diagnosis is the starting point for determining what type of treatment is best suited for their individual case. Your health care practitioner will take into consideration such elements as the extent of the cancer, the location of the cancer as well as the stage of the cancer in order to determine what cervical cancer treatment will be most effective.
Types of Treatment for Cervical Cancer
Limited, Non-Invasive CancerThis form of cervical cancer is limited to the outside layer of the cervix and generally requires the removal of the area in which abnormal cells are located. These types of cancer generally do not require additional forms of treatment.
Examples of cancer treatment options for limited, non-invasive cervical cancer include the following procedures:
- cone biopsy (conization) in this procedure, a scalpel is used to remove cone-shaped pieces of cervical tissue where abnormalities have been identified.
- laser surgery this treatment for cervical cancer uses a narrow beam of intense light so as to destroy both precancerous as well as cancerous cells.
- loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) involves the use of a wire loop in order to pass electrical currents. The wire loop has a force similar to a surgical knife and can remove cells from the mouth of the cervix.
- cryosurgery a procedure in which precancerous and cancerous cells are frozen and destroyed.
- hysterectomy a major surgical procedure, this cervical cancer treatment involves the removal of precancerous and cancerous cells, in addition to the removal of the cervix and the uterus. As such, a hysterectomy ends a woman's ability to get pregnant. This procedure is performed only in select cases.
Invasive CancersIn cases in which cancer is located beyond the outer layers of the cervix, more extensive forms of treatment are required.
- surgery a hysterectomy removes the uterus, cervix as well as precancerous and cancerous cells and can be performed in the early stages of invasive cervical cancer, when the cancer is less than 3 mm into the cervix. A radical hysterectomy removes the uterus and cervix, as well as part of the vagina and lymph nodes. Surgery can cure early stage cancers as well as prevent recurrence. Six weeks is the average period of recovery time while temporary side effects such as pelvic pain and problems with regard to urination and bowel movements may occur. This procedure prevents a woman from being able to get pregnant.
- radiation is a form of cervical cancer treatment in which intense energy is used to destroy cancerous cells. Radiation therapy can be applied externally using a procedure known as external beam radiation; it can also be conducted internally, using a procedure known as brachytherapy, in which devices filled with radioactive materials are placed near the cervix. Radiation therapy can be used in combination with chemotherapy prior to surgery in order to shrink a tumor, or following surgery in order to destroy any residual cancer cells. It is a less effective form of therapy for treating cervical cancer in its early stages in comparison to surgery; however, it can be very effective in the treatment of advanced cancer. Side effects include upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, bladder irritation and narrowing of the vagina, the latter of which can make intercourse difficult.
- chemotherapy uses potent anti-cancerous chemicals in order to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be used in combination with other drugs or alone. When used with radiation therapy, it is administered in low doses. Higher doses work best for more advanced cases of cervical cancer that may not be curable. Side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, nausea, fatigue and diarrhea. Some chemotherapy drugs can result in infertility or early menopause.