The cervix makes up the lower portion of the uterus, and connects the main body of the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer begins in the cells of the cervix. The majority of cervical cancers are caused by a chronic infection of HPV (human papilloma virus). Typically it takes many years for a cancer to develop. Screening with pap smears and/or HPV testing helps to decrease the number of women diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer by detecting precancerous changes and being able to deliver prompt treatment before it becomes an advanced cancer. It is the third most common cancer of the female reproductive tract.
Cervical cancer is treated by a team of experts at the cancer centre who often use different types of treatment depending on the stage and location of the disease. These include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Your family doctor or gynecologist will make a referral for you if a cervical cancer is suspected. The cancer centre will then set up an appointment for you. You may see a Gynecologic Oncologist (a specialist in gynecological surgery and chemotherapy), a Medical Oncologist (specialist in chemotherapy) or a Radiation Oncologist (specialist in radiation therapy).
Sometimes, based on the information that they have, you may need to see more than one specialist. The oncologist(s) you see will review your case and go over the best treatment plan for your situation. This appointment may be overwhelming, so it is best to bring someone with you for support.
Surgery is used to treat early cervical cancer. Sometimes further treatment may be required, depending on the final pathology results, which may indicate that the cancer has spread
to other areas. Surgical options may include:
• Cone biopsy or LEEP (early stage)
• Radical trachelectomy with lymphadenectomy
• Hysterectomy with or without lymphadenectomy ( +/- Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy (BSO))
• Radical hysterectomy with pelvic lymphadenectomy ( +/- Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy (BSO))
Other Treatment Options
While surgery is the preferred method of treating early cervical cancer, in some circumstances chemotherapy and/or radiation might be more beneficial. We know that when it comes to treating cancer, it is preferred to use one method of treatment to minimize side effects. If surgery cannot completely remove the cancer safely, then chemotherapy and radiation will be recommended to treat the cancer.
The chemotherapy used to treat cervical cancer when given with radiation does not cause hair loss, but may affect blood count and cause some nausea and vomiting. These are usually well controlled with medication; however, if you find that they are not working to ease your symptoms, please consult your oncologist.
Canadian Cancer Society
Call or go online to look for:
• Cervical Cancer: Understanding your diagnosis
• Eating well when you have cancer
• Chemotherapy and other drug therapies: A guide for people with cancer
• Radiation Therapy: A guide for people with cancer
• When someone you know has cancer: How you can help