Cervical cancer 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 children.
- 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:1
- 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 pelvis.
Cervical cancer that comes back
Cervical cancer 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.
Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life-not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit. You can have this care along with treatment to cure your illness.
Palliative care providers will work to help control pain or side effects. They may help you decide what treatment you want or don't want. And they can help your loved ones understand how to support you.
If you're interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor.
For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure the 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 you can still get treatment to make you as comfortable as possible during the time you have left. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.
For more information, see the topics: