Medical Treatment for Cervical Cancer continued...
Tissue may also be removed by laser ablation. In this procedure, a laser beam is applied to either specific areas of cervical tissue or a whole layer of tissue at the surface of the cervix. The laser destroys these cells, leaving healthy cells in their place.
The success of cryocautery or laser ablation procedures is determined by a follow-up exam and Pap smear. Neither procedure is used to obtain tissue samples for evaluation; they only destroy the abnormal tissue. Therefore, the margins or edges cannot be inspected to make sure the cancer has not spread.
The most widely used treatments for invasive cervical cancer are surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy or biological therapy also is sometimes used.
If a biopsy shows that cancerous cells have invaded through a layer called the basement membrane, which separates the surface layers of the cervix from other underlying layers, surgery is usually required. The extent of the surgery varies, depending on the stage of the cancer.
In cervical cancer, surgery removes cancerous tissue in or near the cervix.
If the cancer is only on the surface of the cervix, the cancerous cells may be removed or destroyed by using methods similar to those used to treat precancerous lesions, such as the LEEP or a cold knife conization.
If the disease has invaded deeper layers of the cervix but has not spread beyond the cervix, an operation may remove the tumor but leave the uterus and the ovaries.
If the disease has spread into the uterus, hysterectomy -- removal of the uterus and cervix -- is usually necessary. Sometimes, the ovaries and fallopian tubes also are removed. In addition, lymph nodes near the uterus may be removed to check for spread of the cancer. Hysterectomy is also sometimes done to prevent spread of the cancer.
Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) is also used to treat cervical cancer at some stages. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop their growth. Like surgery, radiation therapy is local therapy; the radiation affects cancer cells only in the treated area. Radiation may be applied externally or internally. Some women receive both kinds.
External radiation comes from a large machine, which aims a beam of radiation at your pelvis. Treatments, which take only a few minutes, usually are given five days a week for five to six weeks. At the end of that time, an extra dose of radiation called a "boost" may be applied to the tumor site.
Because of safety concerns and expense of equipment, radiation therapy generally is offered only at certain large medical centers or hospitals.
Internal or implant radiation comes from a capsule containing radioactive material which is placed directly in the cervix. The implant puts cancer-killing rays close to the tumor while sparing most of the healthy tissue around it. It is usually left in place for one to three days, and the treatment may be repeated several times over the course of one to two weeks. You stay in the hospital while the implants are in place.