There is no unique method to treat cervical cancer; today, many therapeutic options are available to fight the tumor. To determine an appropriate treatment for your condition, your doctor will consider the stage or progression of the cancer. He will also consider the size of the tumor, your age and health in general. In addition, your desire to preserve your fertility will play a role in the choice of treatment. Therefore, if you want to give birth in the future, talk to your oncologist before starting therapy. Cervical cancer treatment often leads to infertility.
A carcinoma in situ cervical cancer (see diagnosis for staging) is completely noninvasive and can be effectively treated with less intensive techniques such as:
- laser treatment.
A stage 1 cervical cancer does not exceed the cervix, and can be treated with:
- internal or external radiation.
At stage 2, a cervical cancer has spread beyond the cervix without affecting the pelvic area; the treatment will be included external or internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy), and hysterectomy.
Stages 3 and 4 cervical cancers have invaded tissues throughout the pelvic region and even other parts of the body; surgery is no longer an option, radiation therapy and chemotherapy will be used.
Usually, radiation therapy consists of using ionizing radiation to destroy malignant cells in cancerous tissue in the cervix. During the procedure, the specialist delivers precise doses of measured radiation, depending on the size and location of the tumor. The radiologist will do his best to spar the surrounding healthy tissue. There are two forms of radiation therapy, which can be performed in the treatment of cervical cancer:
- Brachytherapy – also called internal radiation therapy, brachytherapy is the introduction of a radioactive source in the vagina cavity in direct contact with the tumor.
- Cobalt therapy – in this therapy, your physician uses radiation from an external source to destroy cancer cells or keep them from reproducing. Cobalt therapy is also called radiotherapy, x-ray therapy radiation treatment or electron beam therapy.
Chemotherapy is a systematic treatment consisting of the use of strong chemical agents (drugs) to destroy cancer cells. It is often associated with radiotherapy to increase its effectiveness. Chemotherapy can be performed before the surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy). One of chemotherapy drugs commonly used in the treatment of cervical cancer is cisplatin (Platinol-AQ). It often includes adverse effects such as
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
- changes in taste
- nausea and vomiting
- hair loss
- low blood cells count
- Numbness or tingling in the fingertips and toes.
Usually, your doctor will perform a cryosurgery of the cervix if the Pap smear or/and the test have revealed cancer cells in the cervix. Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold to destroy diseased tissue, including cancerous and precancerous cells.
Depending on the location of the tumor in your cervix, your physician can use intense light beam to destroy the cancer cells. This technique is used most often to treated small-sized cervical cancers.
Your surgeon will perform a cervical conization if the Pap test or the biopsy has found precancerous anomalies in the cervix. It consists of resection (removal) of a cone-shaped piece of the cervix containing the tumor. Usually, cervical conization is done under general anesthesia. Your oncologist can used this technique as a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure. You should not eat or drink anything for six to eight hours before a cervical conization.
Hysterectomy – This surgery can be (Interannexial) conservative, subtotal or total. During a conservative Interannexial, part of the uterus is removed without affecting the ovaries and fallopian tubes; in a subtotal hysterectomy, part of the uterus and some tissues are removed without removing the cervix; however, a total hysterectomy involves the removal of the entire uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
After treatment for cervical cancer of the uterus, everything is not finished; it is important to see your health care provider regularly. Follow-up care can help your physician to check your progress and assess your recovery from the disease. In general, during the first year after treatment, you will be scheduled to see your doctor on a regular basis. Visit schedules can be different for each person depending on the type of treatment that have been used and the severity of the cancer. In any case, do not neglect your appointments with your doctor even if you feel good.