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 the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for cervical cancer, your healthcare team will consider:
- the stage of the cancer
- your age
- your general health
- whether or not you want to become pregnant in the future
- what you prefer or want
You may be offered one or more of 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 that includes the abnormal area of the cervix. It is done to diagnose and treat cervical cancer in the earliest stages.
A radical trachelectomy removes the cervix, the upper part of the vagina, some structures and tissue around the cervix (parametrium) and the lymph nodes in the pelvis. 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 1A1 cervical cancer.
A radical hysterectomy removes the cervix, uterus, parametrium and nearby lymph nodes. A radical hysterectomy may be used to treat stage 1B or 2 cervical cancer or cancer that comes back (recurs).
A lymph node dissection removes lymph nodes in the pelvis to see if they contain cancer cells. It is often done during surgery to help estimate the outcome (predict the prognosis) and decide if other treatment is needed after surgery.
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 comes back in the pelvis after it has been treated with radiation therapy.
Ovarian transposition moves the ovaries higher up in the abdomen away from the pelvis. Moving the ovaries helps to protect them from possible damage from radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat any stage of cervical cancer. External radiation therapy, brachytherapy (a type of internal radiation therapy) or both may be used.
Chemoradiation means that chemotherapy is given during the same time period as radiation therapy. It is used to make the radiation therapy more effective. Chemoradiation is commonly 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 advanced stage and recurrent cervical cancer. Bevacizumab is usually given together with chemotherapy.
If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment
You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.
Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. You will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 5 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow your healthcare team to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment.
Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to women with cervical cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new 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.
I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant.
How can you stop cancer before it starts?
Discover how 16 factors affect your cancer risk and how you can take action with our interactive tool – It’s My Life! Presented in partnership with Desjardins.