Treating cervical cancer
Cervical cancer can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these. Your doctor will advise on the best treatment plan for you taking into account your age, overall health, and the type and stage of your cancer.
Surgery is often the main treatment for women in early stages of cervical cancer.
Radiotherapy is as effective as surgery for treatment of early-stage cancer and can be used as an alternative to surgery.
Sometimes, radiotherapy can also be given after surgery if there is a risk that some cancer cells may remain. This helps lower the chances of the cancer returning.
Radiotherapy in place of surgery is usually used to treat larger tumors in the cervix (around 4 cm in size).
Radiotherapy is often given in combination with chemotherapy to treat larger tumors.
Locally advanced cancer
The combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is the main treatment for locally advanced cancer.
In some cases, an operation called pelvic exenteration is performed if the cancer has spread to organs located near the pelvis (such as the bladder or intestine) but has not spread to distant organs (for example, the lungs). This type of operation is major surgery and is only appropriate for a small percentage of women.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver or the lungs.
Chemotherapy can help reduce and control cancer and relieve symptoms, prolonging patients' quality of life. This is known as palliative treatment.
HOW IS THE TREATMENT PLANNED?
Your treatment will be planned by a group of specialists who will meet to discuss and agree upon the best possible treatment plan for you.
This multidisciplinary team will include:
- A surgeon (who specializes in your type of cancer)
- A medical oncologist
- A radiotherapy oncologist
- Radiologists who help analyze x-rays and scans.
- Pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.
Other health professionals may be included, such as a palliative care doctor (who is specialized in controlling symptoms), a nutritionist, a physical therapist, and occupational therapists, and a psychologist.
BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF THE TREATMENT
You may feel afraid of cancer treatment due to the side effects it can have. Although treatments for cervical cancer can produce adverse effects, you will be given help to control them.
The treatment can be given for various reasons and the possible benefits vary from person to person and from situation to situation. Your doctor can tell you whether the primary aim of the treatment is to cure the cancer, control it for some time, or reduce the symptoms and improve quality of life. They can also tell you about the possible side effects of the treatment and whether these are temporary or permanent.