Cervical Cancer

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Treating Cervical Cancer TOPICS

How is cervical cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society's Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

The options for treating each patient with cervical cancer depend on the stage of disease. The stage of a cervical cancer describes its size, depth of invasion (how far it has grown into the cervix), and how far it has spread.

After establishing the stage of your cervical cancer, your cancer care team will recommend your treatment options. Think about your options without feeling rushed. If there is anything you do not understand, ask for an explanation. Although the choice of treatment depends largely on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, other factors that may influence your options are your age, your general health, your individual circumstances, and your preferences. Cervical cancer can affect your sex life and your ability to have children. These concerns should also be considered as you make treatment decisions. (See Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer to learn more about these issues.) Be sure that you understand all the risks and side effects of the various treatments before making a decision.

Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, you may need more than one type of treatment. Doctors on your cancer treatment team may include:

  • A gynecologist: a doctor who treats diseases of the female reproductive system
  • A gynecologic oncologist: a doctor who specializes in cancers of the female reproductive system
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancer

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals.

Common types of treatments for cervical cancer include:

For the earliest stages of cervical cancer, either surgery or radiation combined with chemo may be used. For later stages, radiation combined with chemo is usually the main treatment. Chemo (by itself) is often used to treat advanced cervical cancer.

It is often a good idea to get a second opinion, especially from doctors experienced in treating cervical cancer. A second opinion can give you more information and help you feel more confident about choosing a treatment plan. Some insurance companies require a second opinion before they will agree to pay for certain treatments. Almost all will pay for a second opinion. Still, you might want to check your coverage first, so you’ll know if you will have to pay for it.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decisions that best fit your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there’s anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section, “What should you ask your doctor about cervical cancer?

Your recovery is the goal of your cancer care team. If a cure is not possible, the goal may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible to help you live longer and feel better. Sometimes treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. This is called palliative treatment.

Last Medical Review: 09/19/2014
Last Revised: 02/26/2015