Cervical Cancer Overview

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Treating Cervical Cancer TOPICS

Chemotherapy for cancer of the cervix

Chemotherapy (chemo) is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Usually the drugs are given into a vein or by mouth. Once the drugs enter the bloodstream, they spread throughout the body.

Chemo can cause side effects. These side effects will depend on the type of drugs given, the amount taken, and how long treatment lasts. Side effects could include these:

  • Upset stomach (nausea) and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Short-term hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Increased chance of infection (from a shortage of white blood cells)
  • Bleeding or bruising after minor cuts or injuries (from a shortage of blood platelets)
  • Shortness of breath (from low red blood cell counts)
  • Tiredness
  • Early change of life (menopause)
  • Loss of ability to become pregnant (infertility)

Most of the side effects (except for menopause and infertility) stop when treatment is over. If you have problems with side effects, talk with your doctor or nurse, as there are often ways to help. For instance, drugs given with chemo can reduce or even prevent nausea and vomiting. Your healthcare team will watch for side effects and can give you medicines to help you feel better.

Chemoradiation

For some stages of cervical cancer, chemotherapy is given to help the radiation work better. When chemotherapy and radiation therapy are given together, it is called concurrent chemoradiation. Giving chemo with radiation can improve the patient’s chance for survival, but giving them together also tends to have worse side effects. The nausea and fatigue are often worse. So is diarrhea and problems with low blood counts. Your healthcare team will watch for side effects and can give you medicines to help you feel better.


Last Medical Review: 04/24/2013
Last Revised: 01/31/2014