Treatments for cervical cancer
If you have cervical cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about your cancer. Treatment may include a combination of different treatments. When deciding which treatments to offer for cervical cancer, your healthcare team will consider:
- the stage
- your age
- your general health
- whether or not you want to become pregnant in the future
- your personal preferences
You may be offered the following treatments for cervical cancer.
Depending on the stage and size of the tumour, you may have one of the following types of surgery.
A cone biopsy removes a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix that includes the abnormal area of the cervix. The cone is formed by removing the outer part of the cervix closest to the vagina and part of the endocervical canal. It is done to diagnose and treat cervical cancer in the earliest stages.
A radical trachelectomy removes the cervix, upper part of the vagina, some of the structures and tissue around the cervix (parametrium) and the lymph nodes in the pelvis. It can be done instead of a hysterectomy to try to maintain fertility. It may be an option for younger women with early stage cervical cancer who want to become pregnant after treatment.
A total hysterectomy removes the cervix and uterus. A total hysterectomy may be used to treat women with stage IA1 cervical cancer.
A radical hysterectomy removes the cervix, uterus, parametrium and nearby lymph nodes. A radical hysterectomy may be used to treat stage IA2 or IIA1 cervical cancer or cancer that recurs, or comes back, in the cervix or uterus after radiation therapy.
A lymph node dissection removes lymph nodes in the pelvis to see if they contain cancer. It is commonly done during surgery for cervical cancer to help predict prognosis and decide if a woman needs other treatment.
A pelvic exenteration removes the cervix, uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes and lymph nodes. The rectum, bladder or both may also be removed. A pelvic exenteration is sometimes done when cervical cancer recurs, or comes back, in the pelvis after it has been treated with radiation therapy.
Ovarian transposition moves the ovaries higher up inside the abdomen away from the pelvis. Moving the ovaries helps to protect them from potential damage from radiation therapy, which can cause early menopause.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat any stage of cervical cancer. Women usually receive a combination of both external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.
Chemotherapy is commonly given during the same time period as radiation therapy to make the cells more sensitive to radiation. This is called chemoradiation. Chemoradiation may be used to treat any stage of cervical cancer.
Chemotherapy alone may be used to treat some stages of cervical cancer.
Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a targeted therapy that may be used to treat stage IVB and recurrent cervical cancer. Bevacizumab is given with chemotherapy.
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. You will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 2–3 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow your healthcare team to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment. You may have follow-up tests such as a physical exam or a Pap test during these visits.
Some clinical trials in Canada are open to women with cervical cancer. Clinical trials look at new and better ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.
Questions to ask about treatment
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about treatment.
Establishing a national caregivers strategy
The Canadian Cancer Society is actively lobbying the federal government to establish a national caregivers strategy to ensure there is more financial support for this important group of people.