Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)
Either radiation therapy or radical hysterectomy results in cure rates of 75% to 80%. The selection of either option depends on patient factors and local expertise. A randomized trial reported identical 5-year overall survival (OS)and disease-free survival rates when radiation therapy was compared to radical hysterectomy. The size of the primary tumor is an important prognostic factor and should be carefully evaluated in choosing optimal therapy. For patients with bulky (>6 cm) endocervical squamous cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas, treatment with high-dose radiation therapy will achieve local control and survival rates comparable to treatment with radiation therapy plus hysterectomy. Surgery after radiation therapy may be indicated for some patients with tumors confined to the cervix that respond incompletely to radiation therapy or in whom vaginal anatomy precludes optimal brachytherapy.
In the early stages, cervical precancers or cervical cancers cause no pain or other symptoms. That's why it's vital for women to get regular pelvic exams and Pap tests to detect cancer in its earliest stage when it's treatable.
The first identifiable symptoms of cervical cancer are likely to include:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as after intercourse, between menstrual periods, or after menopause; menstrual periods may be heavier and last longer than normal.
Pain during intercourse.
After surgical staging, patients found to have small volume para-aortic nodal disease and controllable pelvic disease may be cured with pelvic and para-aortic radiation therapy. The resection of macroscopically involved pelvic nodes may improve rates of local control with postoperative radiation therapy. Treatment of patients with unresected periaortic nodes with extended-field radiation therapy leads to long-term disease control in those patients with low volume (<2 cm) nodal disease below L3. A single study (RTOG-7920) showed a survival advantage in patients who received radiation therapy to para-aortic nodes without histologic evidence of disease. Toxic effects were greater with para-aortic radiation than with pelvic radiation alone but were mostly confined to patients with prior abdominopelvic surgery. Patients who underwent extraperitoneal lymph node sampling had fewer bowel complications than those who had transperitoneal lymph node sampling.[6,8,9] Patients with close vaginal margins (<0.5 cm) after radical surgery may also benefit from pelvic radiation therapy.
Five randomized phase III trials have shown an OS advantage for cisplatin-based therapy given concurrently with radiation therapy,[11,12,13,14,15,16,17] while one trial examining this regimen demonstrated no benefit. The patient populations in these studies included women with F�deration Internationale de Gyn�cologie et d'Obst�trique (FIGO) stages IB2 to IVAcervical cancer treated with primary radiation therapy and women with FIGO stages I to IIA disease who, at the time of primary surgery, were found to have poor prognostic factors, which included the following: