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Cervical cancer (cancer of the cervix)
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Cervical cancer  (cancer of the cervix)

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Pre-invasive stage

Treatment of cervical cancer in the pre-invasive stage, when it has affected only the outer layer of the lining of the cervix, may include:

  • Simple surgery. This involves removing with a scalpel a cone-shaped piece of cervical tissue where the abnormality is found.

  • Laser surgery. This operation uses a narrow beam of intense light to kill cancerous and precancerous cells.

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). This technique uses a wire loop to pass electrical current, which cuts like a surgeon's knife, and remove cells from the mouth of the cervix.

  • Cryosurgery. This technique involves freezing and killing cancerous and precancerous cells.

  • Hysterectomy. This major surgery involves removal of the cancerous and precancerous areas, the cervix and the uterus.

Invasive stage

Many women are treated successfully for invasive cervical cancer and live full, productive lives. According to the ACS, the five-year survival rate is more than 90 percent when the cancer is still confined to the cervix.

Treatment may involve:

  • Hysterectomy. Surgery is the best option for younger women because it often can preserve one or both ovaries and estrogen production, which is important in maintaining bone strength. A simple hysterectomy — removal of the cancer, the cervix and the uterus — is typically an option only when there is an invasion of less than 3 millimeters (mm) into the cervix. A radical hysterectomy — removal of the cervix, uterus, part of the vagina and lymph nodes in the area — is the standard surgical treatment when there is an invasion of greater than 3 mm into the cervix and no evidence of tumor on the walls of the pelvis. Side effects include a slight risk of damage to your bowel or bladder, or damage to the nerves that serve the bladder. The surgery results in a somewhat-shortened vagina, but most women report normal sexual function after surgery.

  • Radiation. Radiation therapy is the standard of care for more advanced stages of the disease. High-energy rays shrink tumors by killing the cancer cells. The radiation destroys the ability of cancer cells to reproduce. Radiation can cause some difficult side effects, although not everyone experiences them. The short-term side effects may include fatigue, diarrhea, irritation of the rectum, irritation of the bladder, and some narrowing, shortening and drying of the vagina, often requiring the use of a lubricating jelly before intercourse. Long-term, rare side effects may include bowel and rectum problems, greater susceptibility to bone fractures and a risk of a secondary malignancy — in which the radiation itself causes a different form of cancer, such as bone cancer. Premenopausal women will experience menopause because the ovaries are destroyed by the radiation. 

  • Chemotherapy. Using drugs to kill cancer cells may enhance the effects of radiation. Tumors tend to shrink rapidly with aggressive chemotherapy, but the drugs can be toxic. Chemotherapy improves survival rates in women with more advanced forms of cervical cancer and is often used in conjunction with radiation therapy.

Treatment often requires a radical hysterectomy or radiation therapy, and sometimes both. Surgery is usually best for smaller tumors, and radiation is a more effective treatment for bigger tumors or for tumors that have spread beyond the cervix but remain in the pelvic area. However, there's no consensus over what constitutes a "small" tumor and a "big" tumor.


Cervical cancer  > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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