Treatment options for cervical cancer vary depending on whether the cancer is pre-invasive or invasive. According to the American Cancer Society, all pre-invasive cancers can be cured with appropriate treatment, which includes:
- Conization: In this procedure, doctors remove a cone-shaped piece of cervical tissue where the abnormal tissue is found.
- Laser surgery: Using a narrow beam of intense light, doctors can kill cancerous and precancerous cells.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): This procedure uses a wire loop to pass an electrical current, which removes cells from the cervix’s mouth.
- Cryosurgery: In this technique, precancerous and cancerous cells are frozen and killed.
- Hysterectomy: This is a major surgery in which the uterus and cervix and removed.
Women with invasive cancer still have good odds, especially when the cancer is detected while it is still confined to the cervix. Treatments for invasive cancer include:
- Hysterectomy: This surgery is usually recommended for younger women, as it will preserve one or both ovaries and estrogen production, which is involved in maintaining bone strength. When the cancer has invaded less than three millimeters into the cervix, a simple hysterectomy is usually performed. For more advanced invasions that haven’t reached the pelvic wall, a radical hysterectomy—meaning the removal of the cervix, uterus, part of the vagina and lymph nodes in this area—is the standard surgery performed.
- Radical trachelectomy: This surgery can allow some women with early stage cervical cancer to maintain their fertility; it involves removing the cervix and the lower part of the uterus, though enough of the uterus is left in place to allow the woman to carry a child.
- Radiation: This procedure uses high-energy rays to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells by destroying their ability to reproduce. Radiation has a number of side effects: for instance, premenopausal women will experience menopause become the radiation destroys their ovarian functions. Radiation can also result in fatigue, swelling, nausea/vomiting, hair loss and skin reddening.
- Chemotherapy: Doctors give chemotherapy drugs to women with bulky tumors in the cervix and the cervix and the upper part of the vagina. Combining chemotherapy with radiation is more effective than radiation alone. Chemotherapy is administered orally, intravenously or through injection. Its side effects include low white blood cell count, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, loss of appetite and diarrhea.