found in its early stages can be successfully treated.
The choice of treatment and the
long-term outcome (prognosis) of
cervical cancer depend on the type and
stage of cancer. Your age, overall health, quality of
life, and desire to be able to have children must also be considered.
Types of treatment
Treatment choices for cervical cancer may be a single
therapy or a combination of therapies, such as:
- Surgery to remove the cancer. The type of surgery needed depends on the
location and extent of cervical cancer and whether you want to have
- Radiation therapy, which uses high-dose X-rays or implants in the vaginal cavity to kill cancer cells. It is used for certain stages of cervical cancer. It is often used in combination with surgery.
To learn more, see Other Treatment.
- Chemoradiation, which is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. This is often used to treat both early-stage and late-stage cervical cancer.
- Chemotherapy, which uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used to treat advanced cervical cancer.
Additional information about cervical cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/cervical.
Coping with emotions during treatment
When you first find out that you have cancer, you may feel scared or angry. Or you may feel very calm. It's normal to have a wide range of feelings and for those feelings to change quickly. Some people find that it helps to talk about their feelings with family and friends.
If your emotional reactions to cancer get in the way of your ability to make decisions about your health, it's important to talk with your doctor. Your cancer treatment center may offer psychological or financial services or both. And a local chapter of the American Cancer Society can help you find a support group.
Body image and sexual problems
Your feelings about your body and your sexuality may
change following treatment for cancer. Managing body image issues may involve talking openly with your
partner about your feelings and discussing your concerns with your doctor. Your
doctor may be able to refer you to organizations that can offer additional
support and information.
Treatment during pregnancy
Cancer treatment during pregnancy is the same as for nonpregnant women. But when you'll get treatment may depend on the stage of your cancer and what trimester you are in. For example, if you have early-stage cervical cancer and you are in your third trimester, your treatment may be delayed until after you deliver your baby. Treatment may cause problems such as an early
delivery or even the loss of the baby.
After treatment for
cervical cancer, it is important to receive follow-up
care. Your oncologist or
gynecologic oncologist will schedule regular checkups
that will include:2
- A pelvic exam and
Pap test every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years.
- After the first 2 years, a pelvic exam and Pap test every 6 months for another 3 to 5 years.
- After 5 years, a pelvic exam and Pap test every year.
Follow-up tests that may be recommended by your
oncologist include an
abdominal and pelvic computed tomography (CT) scan. This test is to
see if cancer has spread to other organs in the belly or
Cervical cancer that comes back
can return, or recur, after treatment. The chance that your
cancer will return depends on the stage of the initial cancer. Cancer found
early is less likely to come back than cancer found at a later stage.
Your long-term outcome (prognosis) for
recurrent cervical cancer depends greatly on how much
the cancer has spread when the recurrence is diagnosed.
Treatments include surgery and chemoradiation or chemotherapy to relieve symptoms. Your doctor may talk with you about being in a clinical trial. Clinical trials for cervical cancer are studying therapies that target cancer cells.
Cancer treatment has two main goals: curing cancer and making your quality of life as good as possible. Palliative care can improve your quality of life by helping you manage your symptoms. It can also help you with other concerns that you may have when you are living with a serious illness.
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But this isn't the end of treatment. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.
It can be hard to decide when to stop treatment aimed at prolonging your life and shift the focus to end-of-life care.
To learn about supportive care, see the topics: