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:
This involves removing with a scalpel a cone-shaped piece of
cervical tissue where the abnormality is found.
This operation uses a narrow beam of intense light to kill cancerous
and precancerous cells.
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
This technique involves freezing and killing cancerous and
This major surgery involves removal of the cancerous and
precancerous areas, the cervix and the uterus.
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:
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 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
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.