Cervical Cancer Treatment

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Cervical Cancer Treatment

Cervical cancer is treated in several ways and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapy. The procedure will depend on the type and stage of the cancer and the individual patient. Speak with your health team to determine the best option for you.

Surgery

  • Total Hysterectomy: An operation in which the cervix and the uterus are removed.
  • Radical Hysterectomy: This involves removing the uterus, cervix and the surrounding tissue and the upper part of the vagina as well as nearby lymph nodes. This procedure is indicated for most women. For younger women, the ovaries are not removed because those structures are critical to providing estrogen and other endocrine function.

Side Effects

  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Difficulty emptying bladder
  • Trouble having a normal bowel movement
  • Limited normal activities
  • Sex can be resumed in 4 to 8 weeks (sex and intercourse are not affected by surgery)
  • No menstrual period
  • Inability to have children
  • Strong emotion due to change in coming to grips with her own sexuality

Radiation

This is a painless procedure that uses high energy rays (similar to x-rays but stronger) to kill cancer cells. Radiation is usually given 5 days per week for 6 to 7 weeks.

  • External beam radiation (EBRT): This procedure aims the x-rays directly at the cancer cells from outside the body. The treatment lasts for only a few minutes: it’s getting you ready that usually takes longer.
  • Brachytherapy: It is also called Internal Radiation because the radiation source is put inside the body close to or into the cancer. Brachytherapy for cervical cancer is called Intracavity brachytherapy where the radiation source is placed in a device into the vagina or cervix.

Side Effects

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea and frequent uncomfortable urination
  • Refrain from sexual intercourse until a few weeks after treatment
  • The vagina may become narrower and less flexible and intercourse may be painful
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • The skin may change to become red, dry, tender, itchy and may also darken at the site

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs which may be in the form of a pill or injection.
These drugs enter the bloodstream and can, therefore, kill cancer cells in most parts of the body. Chemotherapy is often given in cycles followed by a recovery period. This reduces the amounts of damages to normal cells in the process and it also gives damaged cells time to rest and recover.

Side Effects

Side effects may occur within minutes, hours, days or weeks, months or even years after treatment. The side effects may be severe, mild or you may not have any side effects.

The reaction differs for individuals depending on health, medical history and diagnosis and there is no way for the doctor to tell if you will get the side effects or how bad they will be. Side effects include:

  • Increased risk for infection
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Mouth and throat sores
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Nerve damage
  • No desire to eat
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in your memory or thinking

Many short-term effects can be controlled or prevented and most get better during the “rest” part of the cycle. They usually go away when treatment is completed.

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