How is Cervical Cancer Treated

The treatment for cervical cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and the extent of its spread. The age and general health of a patient are also some factors considered.

Oftentimes, as the cervical cancer becomes more advanced, treatment choices become more limited for the physician and the patient. Treatment may also be a single therapy or a combination of more than one method. The three standard modes of treatment for cervical cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

The following are the options for treating cervical cancer:

Chemotherapy

This method uses anticancer drugs either to kill the cancer cells or prevent them from dividing. It is administered in different ways, may it be intravenously, through IV infusion or by taking pills.

Chemotherapy is not the most common form of treatment, as it is not as effective as other methods. Although its combination with radiation therapy is also clinically tested for treating invasive cancers.

Radiation Therapy

Certain types of energy are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Such high-energy may be in the form of waves, proton or electron particles, x-rays and gamma rays. Radiation can also be performed either externally or internally.

External radiation therapy involves focusing the rays on the pelvic area from a source outside of the body. On the other hand, pellet of radioactive materials may be placed internally near the tumor in a procedure known as brachytherapy or interstitial radiotherapy.

Total Hysterectomy

Having a total hysterectomy involves surgically removing the cervix and uterus. This can be done through an incision in the abdomen or through the vagina.

In a radical hysterectomy, the cervix, uterus and upper part of the vagina are removed. The ovaries and fallopian tubes may also be taken out.

Pelvic Exenteration

This operation is performed to women diagnosed with recurrent cervical cancer. Pelvic exenteration includes the surgical removal of the urinary bladder, lower colon and rectum, aside from the cervix, uterus and vagina.

New openings are to be created for urine and feces to pass through when being excreted from the body. Also, a new vagina may also be created surgically.

The above treatments each have their own side effects which every woman should think about even before the initial treatment. The side effects of chemotherapy may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, mouth sores, hair loss and leukopenia or low white blood cell count.

Undergoing radiation therapy may include such side effects as fatigue, swelling, skin irritation, and changes in bowel movements or urinary habits. Depending on the type of surgery administered to treat the stage of cancer, surgery also has several side effects.

Most cases of cervical cancer can be cured, as the pre-cancerous stages of the disease are easily detected. Once detected, appropriate treatment can be done early to prevent them from developing into more invasive cancers.

Recently, an FDA-approved cervical cancer vaccine for girls and women between ages 9 and 26 has been shown to give protection against the human papillomavirus or HPV.

Having regular Pap smear tests is one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer. Knowing the risk factors to cervical cancer is also important to prevent the disease.

Abstaining from having sexual relations at a young age and using appropriate measures when engaging in sexual activities help avoid HPV infections. Not smoking will also help reduce the risks of cervical cancer.