If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, there are several treatment options available to you. In most cases, your provider will refer you to an oncologist or other specialist. Your providers will discuss the pros and cons of different treatment options, and determine the appropriate treatment plan for your condition. Treatment generally begins within a few weeks of diagnosis, after you’ve had time to review your treatment choices, get a second opinion, and learn more about your condition.
Treatment of early stages of cervical cancer focuses on the surgical removal of the cancer cells and tends to be more aggressive than the treatments for cervical dysplasia. The choice of treatment focuses on the stage of the cancer and the desire for future pregnancies. Many women with early stages of cervical cancer have a total hysterectomy, which is surgery to remove both the cervix and the uterus. The fallopian tubes and ovaries may also be removed, along with lymph nodes near the area of cancer.
Another commonly used treatment is radiation therapy. There are two main types of radiation therapy used to treat cervical cancer: external and internal. External radiation involves aiming radiation at the cancer site using a large machine. With internal radiation, tiny tubes containing a radioactive substance are inserted through the vagina and left in place for a few days. Internal radiation does require a stay in the hospital. Radiation therapy is often used in combination with surgical procedures for the treatment of cervical cancer.
Chemotherapy may also be used in the treatment of cervical cancer. There are a variety of cancer-fighting drugs that can be administered through an IV to destroy cancer cells. In many cases of cervical cancer, chemotherapy is used in conjunction with surgery or radiation therapy.
The choice of treatment depends mainly on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. In the early stages of cervical cancer, the desire to have children may also influence the treatment options to be considered. You and your provider will discuss the options that are best for your specific condition.
During treatment for cervical cancer, strategies to control pain, nausea and vomiting, or other side effects may be required. Additional treatments for emotional side effects, such as depression may also be needed.