You can choose among some options to treat your cervical cancer, depending on the stage of your illness. Besides medications, your doctor can recommend you removing abnormal cells, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemoradiation. It is necessary that you understand these treatments before considering taking action.
Removing abnormal cells
In case your body shows biological changes that could turn cancerous in the future although you don’t have cervical cancer, a number of treatment options are available. The first one is large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ): a fine wire and an electrical current are applied to cut away abnormal cells. Second is cone biopsy: the area of abnormal tissue is removed during surgery. The third is laser therapy: a laser is used to burn the abnormal cells.
Patients sometimes choose surgery to remove cancer – the tumor and surrounding tissue during an operation. The doctor will decide the type of surgery based on the location and extent of cervical cancer, and whether you want to have children.
There are three main types of surgery for cervical cancer. They are radical trachelectomy, hysterectomy, and pelvic exenteration.
This is preferred when cervical cancer is diagnosed at early stage. It’s usually offered to women who want to preserve their child-bearing potential. Unlike hysterectomy or pelvic exenteration, your womb keeps intact, which means that you may still be able to have children.
Hysterectomy surgery is usually suggested for early cervical cancer, including a course of radiotherapy to help prevent cancer coming back. In short term, this kind of surgery can bring you risk of infection, bleeding, blood clots and accidental injury to your ureter, bladder or rectum. There is less risk in long term but can sometimes cause you troubles. Your vagina can become shortened and drier, which makes sex painful; urinary incontinence; swelling of your arms and legs, etc. As your womb is removed during a hysterectomy, you’ll no longer be able to have children.
This kind of major operation is only recommended when cervical cancer recurs and cancer returns to the pelvis but hasn’t spread beyond this area. Your vagina will be reconstructed by using skin and tissue taken from other parts of your body. This means you’ll be able to have sex after the procedure, although it may take you several months to feel well enough to do so.
This is the method that uses high-dosed X-rays or implants in the vaginal cavity to kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy may be used alone or combined with surgery for early stage cervical cancer, or be combined with chemotherapy for advanced cervical cancer, aiming to control bleeding and pain.
Radiation therapy can be delivered externally: a machine beams high-energy waves into your pelvis to destroy cancerous cells. Or it can be internally applied: a radioactive implant is placed inside your vagina and cervix. A combination of internal and external radiotherapy may be used, within five to eight weeks.
It is the truth that this treatment destroys cancerous cells, which means impacting healthy tissue. However, the good news is that the benefits of radiotherapy often tend to outweigh the risks.
As mentioned, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation is sometimes used to treat cervical cancer. This is called chemoradiation. It treats both early-stage and late-stage cervical cancer. Chemotherapy is usually given by using an intravenous drip on an outpatient basis, so you can go home after you have received your dose.
As with radiotherapy, the procedure can damage healthy tissues and bring along unwanted side effects. And some types of chemotherapy medication can even destroy your kidneys, so it is necessary for you to have regular blood tests to maintain your kidney health.
It is suggested that you think carefully about any options. In case you don’t understand something, go ask for an explanation. Treatments for your cervical cancer can bring you some side effects. These concerns should also be considered as you make treatment decisions.