June 12, 2023
Cervical cancer is a common type of cancer, with an estimated 13,000 new cases* diagnosed each year in the US. It affects the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer develops when abnormal cells in the cervix grow out of control, leading to a tumor.
The primary cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that often goes away on its own. Women with weakened immune systems, smoking, and a family history of cervical cancer are also at an increased risk of developing the disease. Read our blog post to know more about types of cervical cancer, risk factors and symptoms.
In this blog post, we will share more information on the stages and cervical cancer treatment options to help individuals understand this disease better. Read on to learn more.
The stages are determined by how far the cancer has spread beyond the cervix. The following are the five stages of cervical cancer:
At this stage, abnormal cells are only found in the surface layer of the cervix, not in the deeper tissues. This medical condition is also known as pre-cancer and is considered to be the earliest stage of cervical cancer. Primary care physicians can detect carcinoma in situ through regular cervical cancer screening tests, such as a Pap smear.
At stage I, cancer has already developed in the cervical tissue and may have spread to the uterus or other nearby tissues, but it has not yet affected the lymph nodes or other organs of the body. Stage I is further divided into Stage IA and Stage IB based on the tumor size.
At this locally advanced stage, cancer has spread beyond the cervix to nearby tissues, such as the vagina, pelvis, or lower part of the ureter. However, it still has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. Stage II is further divided into Stage IIA and Stage IIB, based on the extent of the spread.
At this stage, cancer has not only spread to the lower third of the vagina, the pelvic wall, or the ureter, and it may also have spread to nearby lymph nodes. However, at stage III, cancer has not yet reached other body parts. Stage III is further divided into Stage IIIA and Stage IIIB, based on the extent of the spread.
It is the most severe stage as cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or distant lymph nodes. Metastatic cervical cancer is the most difficult to treat.
This common procedure for cervical cancer involves the removal of cancerous cells and tissues. Surgical treatment options for cervical cancer are as follows:
Conization: Surgeons use a scalpel to remove a cone-shaped tissue sample from the cervix and cervix canal. Doctors usually recommend conization to treat pre-cancerous lesions (stage 0) or very early-stage cancer (stage I). This process can be done in the hospital under general anesthesia.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: During this process, the surgeons remove the sentinel lymph node, the first lymph node from where the cancer is likely to spread to other nodes or organs. A radioactive substance or blue dye is injected near the tumor to identify it.
Hysterectomy: This is another surgical procedure that involves the removal of the uterus and cervix. There are primarily three types of hysterectomy performed in cervical cancer cases.
During a total hysterectomy, the uterus is removed along with one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) ovaries and fallopian tubes.
During a radical hysterectomy, the uterus, cervix, part of the vagina, and a wide area of ligaments and tissues around these organs are removed.
In the case of a modified radical hysterectomy, surgeons remove the tissues surrounding uterus, cervix, upper part of the vagina, and ligaments.
Oncologists often recommend radiation therapy in combination with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy. Two types of radiation therapy are used for the treatment of cervical cancer: external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy. External beam radiation therapy is given from outside the body while brachytherapy involves placing a radioactive source inside the vagina.
This cervical cancer treatment procedure is often used in combination with other treatments such as radiation therapy or surgery to improve the chances of complete recovery. Chemotherapy may be recommended for women with advanced-stage cervical cancer or those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
It is an emerging cancer treatment that works by targeting specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Targeted therapy is often used in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
In immunotherapy, a person’s immune system fights cancer. Biomarker tests can predict individual responses to certain immunotherapy drugs. Pembrolizumab is a common immunotherapy drug used to treat certain cervical cancers that has a biomarker named PD-L1.
These trials are research studies that test new treatments for cervical cancer. Some women with cervical cancer may benefit from experimental treatments available through clinical trials. Women who are interested in participating in a clinical trial should speak with their healthcare provider to learn more about their options. There are a number of cancer centers in Florida that provide detailed information about ongoing clinical trials for cervical cancer.
During treatment, doctors may recommend certain tests to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and they may also decide whether to continue, change, or stop treatment. Periodic follow-up tests or checkups are usually conducted post-treatment to detect any changes in the condition or recurrence of cancer.
These follow-up tests may be done every 3 to 4 months for the first two years, followed by check-ups every six months. The check-up involves an examination of the body to detect any signs or symptoms of recurrent cervical cancer or late effects of treatment, as well as a current health history review. Depending on the situation, a Pap smear test may or may not be conducted during these visits.
It is crucial to report any signs or symptoms that may indicate a cancer recurrence. Some common symptoms may include-
Receiving a cervical cancer diagnosis can be challenging and emotional. Individuals should take care of their mental health and seek support from loved ones, as well as from healthcare professionals and support groups. In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying informed about treatment and care, and managing stress through meditation or therapy are essential. For any queries or concerns about cervical cancer, contact ACTC, one of the best cancer centers in Florida, and consult our board-certified oncologists.
*Data retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the severity of cervical cancer in the US