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Cervical Cancer: Treatment Choices

Cervical cancer can be treated. Treatment can be used to cure the cancer or control it to keep it from spreading. It can also help control symptoms or problems the cancer is causing. Surgery and radiation therapy are the most common treatments for cervical cancer. You may be treated by a specialist known as a gynecologic oncologist. This is a doctor who is specially trained to treat cancer of the female reproductive system. He or she will talk with you about the treatment options that are best for you. 

The recommendations for your treatment depend on each of these factors:

  • Type of cervical cancer you have

  • Size and location of the tumor

  • Your age and general health

  • Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body

  • Your desire to become pregnant in the future

  • How likely it is that the treatment will cure the cancer. Some cancers can be cured while others can't.

Talking about your treatment options

Discuss with your doctor and other healthcare providers any questions and concerns you have about your treatment options. Ask how successful the treatment is expected to be, and what the risks and side effects may be.

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

The doctor is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are, how successful they’re expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are. Your doctor may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one, and ask you to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It is important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

Types of treatment

Treatment for cervical cancer is either local or systemic.

Local treatment removes, destroys, or controls cancer cells in 1 area. The types of local treatment for cervical cancer include:

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to fully remove the cancer and maybe also remove the pelvic lymph nodes to test them for spread of the disease. Surgery is used for early stage cancer that has not spread far beyond the cervix. Surgery often cures the cancer.

  • Radiation. This treatment kills cancer cells by using high-energy X-rays directed at the tumor. Radiation can be from outside your body (external). And it can also be done using radioactive material placed inside your body (internal).

Systemic treatment destroys or control cancer cells throughout the body. The types of systemic treatment include:

  • Chemotherapy.  This treatment uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy travels through the bloodstream around the whole body to kill cancer cells that may have spread beyond the main tumor in the cervix. It’s not very effective when used alone for cervical cancer. Most women who have chemotherapy for cervical cancer have it along with radiation, which helps the radiation work better.

  • Targeted Therapy. This treatment uses medicines that are designed to attack and kill cancer cells and limit the damage to healthy cells. 

You may have just 1 method of treatment. Or you may have a combination of these treatments.

Clinical trials for new treatments

Doctors are also finding new ways to treat cervical cancer. These new, and maybe better, methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, you should ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials you should consider.

Working with your doctor for a treatment plan

Your gynecologic oncologist will help you make a treatment plan. Talking about your treatment choices will be one of the most important meetings you'll have with your doctor.

It may take time to choose the best plan. Ask your doctor how much time you can take to explore your options. Learn as much as you can. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You may want to get a second opinion from another doctor before deciding on treatment. You may also want to talk with your family and friends.

Online Medical Reviewer: Goodman, Howard, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2017
© 2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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