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Cervical Cancer Treatment

Cervical Cancer Treatment (<i>cont'd</i>)

The best treatment plans for cervical cancer take into account several factors: the location of abnormal cells, the results of colposcopy, your age and whether you want to have children in the future. Basically, treatment involves destroying or removing the abnormal cells. Three basic approaches are used alone or in various combinations:

Surgery is used to remove the cancer. Various surgical techniques may be used, including:

  • Excision (cutting out the abnormal cells)

  • Electrosurgery (electric current is passed through a metal rod that touches, vaporizes and destroys abnormal cells)

  • Cryosurgery (abnormal cells are frozen with carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide)

  • Laser vaporization (precise destruction of the small areas of abnormal cells)

  • Conization (a biopsy used as a treatment)

  • Simple hysterectomy (removal of the cervix and uterus)

  • Radical hysterectomy (removal of cervix, upper vagina, uterus and ligaments that support them)

Radiation therapy (using high-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells) is used to treat both early and advanced-stage diseases. Sometimes your health care professional will use it alone or in combination with surgery. A common way to receive radiation is externally, just like an x-ray. Another procedure, called brachytherapy, involves having the radioactive source placed inside your body; it continues to emit energy for a specific period of time. In most stages of cervical cancer, radiation should be used with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill or infused into the body with a needle inserted into a vein. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body and can kill cancer cells outside the cervix. Combination chemotherapy is constantly evolving, with the goal of improving response to treatment. Chemotherapy with platinum can also make radiation more effective, depending on the stage of the cancer.

Based on the stage of your cancer, treatment regimens usually include the following:

  • Stage 0 cervical cancer is sometimes called carcinoma in situ. Treatment may be one of the following: conization; laser surgery; loop electrocautery excision procedure (LEEP); cryosurgery; and surgery to remove the cancerous area, cervix, and uterus (total abdominal or vaginal hysterectomy) for women who cannot or do not want to have children. The precancerous changes or the stage 0 cancer can recur in the cervix or vagina, so close follow-up is very important.