Overview Cervical cancer detected in early stages can be treated successfully. The choice of treatment, however, depends on the tumor size, its spread and the need to preserve the ability to get pregnant.
What are the treatment options for cervical cancer? Cervical cancer is widely treated with surgery and radiotherapy. Surgery is done to remove the cancer cells. It is used primarily in early stages of cancer. Chemotherapy may also be recommended in some stages of cancer along with radiation therapy called as chemo radiation.
Surgery: The extent of the surgery depends upon the stage of the cervical cancer. It may either be done as total hysterectomy in which whole uterus is removed or partial hysterectomy or cone biopsy, hereby, preserving fertility. Cone biopsy is done in small tumours. In more advanced stages a procedure called as pelvic exenteration may also be done in which uterus, surrounding lymph nodes and parts of other affected organs are removed.
Radiation therapy: Also, called as radiotherapy, it is used in some stages of cancer. It uses high energy rays or implants to destroy cervical cancer cells and prevent them from growing further. Radiation therapy is applied locally either externally or internally.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses special and powerful medicines to destroy cancer cells. It may be used alone or in association with radiotherapy. The drugs are either given orally or in the veins. It is given in cycles comprising intensive and recovery phase. Commonly used chemotherapy drugs in cervical cancer are 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin. Certain targeted drugs have been developed that are used along with chemotherapy in cervical cancer. These include Avastin (Bevacizumab). Targeted drugs prevent the growth of cancer by inhibiting the growth of its blood vessels.
How much time is required? Number of sessions required:Surgical procedures may take 2- 3 hours, depending on the type of procedure done. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are done in cycles extending from days to week. Usually 2- 3 days of hospital stay are required following surgery. Further stay depends on the chemotherapy and radiotherapy cycles.
What type of anesthesia will be given? Hysterectomy is done under general anaesthesia.
What are the possible common complications? Risks are associated with different treatment modalities:
1) Fatigue, skin changes, vomiting, diarrhoea, bladder irritation, vaginal irritation or discharge and menstrual changes may occur with radiotherapy,
2) Chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, hair loss or fatigue,
3) Loss of ability to get pregnant is an important issue that can happen in advanced cervical cancer treated by total hysterectomy.
What should be cared? 1) As the patient loses her ability to get pregnant, psychological support is needed after removal of the uterus,
2) Following cancer removal, good amount of calories and proteins should be added in the diet,
3) Follow up is required every 3-4 months for first 2 years. Later every 6 month evaluation is required.
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