Cervical Cancer (Cancer of the Cervix)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cervical Cancer Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideCervical Cancer Symptoms, Treatment, HPV and Prevention

Cervical Cancer Symptoms, Treatment, HPV and Prevention

What is the treatment for cervical cancer?

The treatment for cervical cancer depends upon many factors, including the stage of the cancer when it is diagnosed. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy are common methods of treatment for cervical cancer. Different kinds of doctors may be involved in the treatment team, including:

  • Gynecologic oncologist, a physician who specializes in treating cancers of the female reproductive organs, including surgery to remove cancers
  • Radiation oncologist, a physician who uses radiation to treat different kinds of cancer
  • Medical oncologist, a specialist in the use of chemotherapy and other medical therapies to treat cancer

What are methods of treatment for cervical cancer?

Surgery is often performed to remove the cancer, especially in early-stage tumors. Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be performed, but other procedures that preserve the ability to carry a pregnancy can be done in younger women with small tumors. Both a cone biopsy (removal of the inside of the cervix where most tumors begin) and a trachelectomy (removal of the upper vagina and cervix) are options that can be used for small tumors in order to preserve fertility. With more advanced cancers, a procedure known as pelvic exenteration removes the uterus, surrounding lymph nodes, and parts of other organs surrounding the cancer, depending on its location.

Radiation therapy is another common treatment for cervical cancer. Both external beam radiation therapy (radiation therapy administered from an outside source of radiation) and brachytherapy (radiation therapy that involves the insertion of radioactive sources near the tumor for a fixed period of time) have been used for cervical cancer. These two types of therapy have also been used together. If radiation therapy is given as the main treatment for the cancer, it is often combined with chemotherapy. Side effects of radiation therapy include fatigue, diarrhea, skin changes, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the bladder, vaginal irritation and discharge, and sometimes menstrual changes or early menopause, if the ovaries are exposed to radiation.

Chemotherapy may be recommended together with radiation therapy (chemoradiation) for some stages of chemotherapy. It may also be given before or after radiation treatment. Chemotherapy drugs commonly used for cervical cancer include cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil. Chemotherapy may also be the treatment of choice for cervical cancer that has come back after treatment. Side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, and mouth sores.

Targeted therapy refers to drugs that have been specifically developed, or targeted, to interrupt cellular processes that promote growth of cancer cells. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is an example of targeted therapy. It is a drug that inhibits the ability of tumors to make new blood vessels, which is required for tumor growth. This kind of targeted therapy is sometimes used for advanced cervical cancers.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2016

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