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Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer treatment options

Our cervical cancer program uses a variety of therapies to target the disease. A multidisciplinary team of cervical cancer experts recommends treatment options based on each patient’s unique diagnosis.

You and your team will develop a personalized cervical treatment plan based on whether your cancer is localized or widespread, as well as your overall health. Surgery to remove or shrink the tumor may be performed and may be followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Not every cervical cancer patient undergoes surgery. Your individualized plan will include evidence-based medical treatments and technologies, combined with supportive care services to help reduce side effects and keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.

We target cervical tumors with evidence-based treatments and technology. Our cervical cancer program offers various radiation, surgery and chemotherapy techniques, with a high quality of care. Your multidisciplinary team of cervical cancer experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs. 

Common cervical cancer treatments include:

Gynecologic oncology

As a gynecologic cancer patient exploring treatment options at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), you’ll meet with a gynecologic oncologist on your first visit. Your gynecologic oncologist will discuss your health and spend time to address your questions and concerns.

After reviewing your medical records and health history, and performing a pelvic exam, your gynecologic oncologist will order appropriate diagnostic tests to determine a recommended course of treatment. These may include biopsies and imaging scans, as well as blood tests.

You will meet again with your gynecologic oncologist, generally within two to three days of your first visit, to discuss the test results. At that time, we will discuss the treatment options available to you, as well as the ways supportive care services may be incorporated into your treatment plan.

Our gynecologic oncology team really tries to think outside the box. We individualize treatment using evidence-based medicine, tailoring the program to each patient. Your treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy or therapy with a monoclonal antibody. It all depends on your unique case and preferences.

How often do I get treatment?

Once you’ve begun your cervical cancer treatment, you’ll meet with our gynecologic cancer team approximately every three to four weeks. Each time, you’ll undergo a comprehensive set of blood tests and a physical exam.

Fertility concerns for younger women

For women with early cervical cancer, fertility-sparing surgery may be a treatment option. We consider fertility issues for younger women, and we provide support for all women who experience sexual side effects as a result of cervical cancer treatment, through our survivorship support program.

What is gynecologic oncology?

Gynecologic oncology focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the female reproductive organs, including the ovaries, endometrium, uterus, cervix, fallopian tube, peritoneal, vagina and vulva.

A gynecologic oncologist is a medical doctor who receives an additional four years of training after completing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology. During this training, he or she acquires highly specialized expertise to stage, diagnose and treat all types of gynecologic cancer.

In addition to performing specialized surgical procedures, a gynecologic oncologist is trained to provide chemotherapy and comprehensive oncology care to a woman throughout the course of cervical cancer treatment. We specialize in advanced surgical techniques that remove cancer, while sparing healthy tissue.

The Gynecologic Oncology Program at CTCA® specializes in treating women with cancer of the reproductive organs, including uterine, ovarian, cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, which plays an important role in shrinking tumors, is recommended for a significant percentage of women treated for cervical cancer. For women treated primarily with radiation therapy, chemotherapy may be added to the treatment regimen to help improve responses. The combination of the two has also improved outcomes for some patients with metastatic disease.

The potential side effects of chemotherapy are unpleasant and may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss and mouth sores. Your care team may offer multiple measures to help reduce or moderate chemotherapy-related symptoms.

Prior to receiving chemotherapy for cervical cancer, you may receive pre-medications to help make symptoms more tolerable.

During chemotherapy, your care team will provide supportive care services to help ease side effects. For example, our naturopathic clinicians may suggest supplements to reduce nausea. Also, a mind-body therapists may offer mind-body techniques to help you relax and feel less anxious during your cervical cancer chemotherapy treatments.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is designed to identify and counteract unique qualities of specific cancer cells. Targeted therapy drugs work by attaching themselves to proteins or receptors on cancer cells, either killing the cells or helping other therapies, such as chemotherapy, work better. Among the drugs used in targeted therapy are so-called angiogenesis inhibitors, designed to prevent cancer cells from developing blood vessels that feed tumors.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight the disease with drugs developed to stimulate the immune system to fight specific cancer cells.

Designed to stimulate the immune system to target certain cancer cells, these drugs have been approved to treat melanoma, kidney and/or lung cancers, and trials on a variety of other cancers are in the works. Combining immunotherapies with other treatments may improve outcomes for some patients.

If you want to preserve your fertility, your gynecologic oncologist may be able to remove only the affected tissue. Patients battling more complex diseases may not be candidates for this option. We will discuss a variety of fertility-sparing procedures with you before beginning your personalized treatment plan.

Surgery

We may perform a variety of procedures, depending on the type and stage of cervical cancer, as well as your individual fertility concerns.

Hysterectomy: During this type of cervical cancer surgery, the uterus and cervix are removed.

Radical hysterectomy: For all but a very small percentage of women with early-stage cervical cancer, a radical hysterectomy will be necessary. This involves removing the uterus and cervix, as well as all the surrounding tissue (the parametria) and the upper part of the vagina. During this procedure, the lymph nodes in the pelvis are also removed. For young women, the ovaries are left behind to preserve ovarian function. For older women, they are removed.

Pelvic exenteration: For women with recurrent or advanced cervical cancer pelvic exenteration may be an option. During this surgery, the uterus, cervix, vagina, ovaries, bladder, rectum and nearby lymph nodes are removed. Tissue from elsewhere in the body is used to reconstruct the vagina, and urine and stool are passed into external bags.

Addressing fertility concerns

If you want to preserve your fertility, your gynecologic oncologist may be able to remove only the affected tissue. Patients battling more complex disease may not be candidates for this option. We will discuss a variety of fertility-sparing procedures with you before beginning your personalized treatment plan.

Radiation therapy 

We combine two types of highly targeted radiation treatments with chemotherapy to treat advanced-stage cervical cancer.

Our radiation oncologists deliver high radiation doses to cancerous cells in the cervix, while sparing healthy tissue. By focusing the radiation directly on the tumor, these therapies are designed to reduce the risk of common gastrointestinal and sexual function side effects associated with radiation therapy for cervical cancer.

We offer two types of radiation therapy for patients with cervical cancer:

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): This therapy delivers high doses of radiation to cervical cancer cells from outside the body, using a variety of machine-based technologies.

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy (internal radiation): This delivers high doses of radiation from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumor(s) in the cervix.