Treatment for Cervical Cancer
There are several treatment options for women with cervical cancer. Whether the cancer has spread and the size of the tumor are two factors that significantly influence the type of treatment used. Treatment options may also vary depending on if you would like to become pregnant someday.
A gynecologic oncologist is typically the type of physician who will finalize the stage, perform surgery and lead the team on other types of cancer treatments that may be needed.
Surgery for Cervical Cancer
Surgery is sometimes used to treat cervical cancer. The following surgical procedures may be used:
LEEP: The use of an electrical current passed through a thin wire hook. The hook removes the tissue. It can be used to remove microinvasive cervical cancer.
Radical trachelectomy: Surgery to remove the cervix, part of the vagina, and the lymph nodes in the pelvis. The uterus and ovaries are not removed.
Total hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus, including the cervix.
Radical hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus, cervix, part of the vagina, and a wide area of ligaments and tissues around these organs. The ovaries, fallopian tubes, or nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.
Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Surgery to remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes.
Pelvic exenteration: Surgery to remove the lower colon, rectum, and bladder. The cervix, vagina, ovaries, and nearby lymph nodes are also removed. Artificial openings (stoma) are made for urine and stool to flow from the body to a collection bag. Plastic surgery may be needed to make an artificial vagina after this operation.
The right type of surgery for every woman depends on the stage and future plans for getting pregnant. Talk to your gynecologic oncologist about options.
Radiation Therapy for Cervical Cancer
Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. External beam radiation therapy is commonly used during the course of a patient’s cervical cancer treatment. However, radiation therapy for cervical cancer has advanced recently with an internal, high-dose radiation therapy now available. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cervical cancer you have options for where to receive radiation therapy. Find a location that’s close to you in the Atlanta area.
Women with early-stage cervical cancer may choose radiation therapy instead of surgery. It also may be used after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain in the area. Women with cancer that extends beyond the cervix may have a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy affects cells only in the treated area using high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.
There are two types of radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer. In some cases, women receive both types. These include:
External beam radiation therapy: External radiation therapy uses high-intensity beams of radiation, directed at a very specific area of the body, to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. A large machine directs radiation at your pelvis or other tissues where the cancer has spread. The treatment usually is given in a hospital or clinic. You may receive external radiation five days a week for several weeks. Each treatment takes only a few minutes.
Brachytherapy: Brachytherapy, or internal radiation therapy, uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The type of brachytherapy used most often to treat cervical cancer is known as intracavitary brachytherapy. A thin tube that has been loaded with a radioactive substance is placed inside the vagina. If you receive low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days while the radioactive source is in place. If you receive high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, the treatment session may last a few minutes, and you can go home afterward. Once the radioactive substance is removed, no radioactivity is left in your body.
Before undergoing radiation therapy, talk with your radiation oncologist about what to expect, including the possible short-term and long-term side effects.
Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer Patients
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Typically, the drugs used to treat cervical cancer are given intravenously (IV). You may receive chemotherapy in a clinic, at the doctor's office, or at home. For women with cervical cancer, chemotherapy is often given in combination with radiation therapy.
Targeted Therapy Approved for Cervical Cancer Treatment
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. As a cancer treatment, these antibodies can attach to a specific target on cancer cells or other cells that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies are able to then kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.
Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and may prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Bevacizumab is used to treat cervical cancer that has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) and recurrent cervical cancer.
Immunotherapy Approved for Cervical Cancer Treatment
Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer.
Pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy, is available to women whose cervical cancer has spread or is recurring. PD-1 is a protein on the surface of T cells that helps keep the body's immune responses in check. When PD-1 attaches to another protein called PDL-1 on a cancer cell, it stops the T cell from killing the cancer cell. PD-1 inhibitors in the immunotherapy attach to PDL-1 and allow the T cells to kill cancer cells.
If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with cervical cancer, our team is here to help. To learn more about radiation therapy for cervical cancer and how a personalized treatment plan can benefit you, give us a call today to schedule an appointment at one of our eight locations in Georgia. Our locations are conveniently located throughout the Atlanta area, including Decatur, Conyers, Covington, Lawrenceville, Snellville, and Blairsville.