Cervical cancer - Choosing treatments

The treatment options for cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. are complex - but easier to understand when you know that much depends on the stage of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., as this page explains.

For more detail about individual treatment options, use the left-hand menu, if you know you are going for surgery, for example.

If you have been diagnosed with cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., your specialist will talk to you about the treatments available to you. What treatment you are offered will depend on the stage your cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has reached.

There are different treatment options for cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. Your treatment will be tailored to your cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., your health and your particular needs. If you have any questions about your treatment, your doctor will be able to discuss these with you.

The aim of treatment for all but the most advanced cancers is to cure you.

When the doctor told me I had cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., and I needed a radical hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb)., I was just overwhelmed. I remember asking the doctor two things: was there time to have a baby, and was there time to look at other options. Coral

How stage affects treatment

Early-stage cancer

If you have early-stage cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and would like to have children, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. It may be possible to have fertility-sparing treatments that treat your cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. without removing your uterus or damaging your ovaries.

If you have early-stage cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., you will be offered treatment based on the exact stage you have. The treatment will also take into account other factors such:

  • Your age
  • Whether you want to have children
  • Your general health
  • Whether the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread to your lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes.

Stage 0 - carcinoma in situ

At this stage the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has not spread beyond the outer tissues of the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus.. It is usually treated in the same way as CINAn abbreviation for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, abnormal changes in the cervix of the uterus that may resolve spontaneously, or may progress to cervical cancer. 3 changes. This may involve a cone biopsyThe removal of a cone-shaped section of tissue from the cervix of the uterus, which is then sent to a laboratory for examination; this may be curative as well as diagnostic. or a simple hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb)..

See the hysterectomy quick guide.

Stage 1

At stage 1 the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is only in your cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus.. Stage 1 cancers are divided into groups depending on the size of the tumour.

Treatment at this stage will depend on whether your lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes. are affected and whether you want to be able to have children. It is usually treated in the same way as CINAn abbreviation for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, abnormal changes in the cervix of the uterus that may resolve spontaneously, or may progress to cervical cancer. 3 changes. This may involve a cone biopsyThe removal of a cone-shaped section of tissue from the cervix of the uterus, which is then sent to a laboratory for examination; this may be curative as well as diagnostic. or a simple hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb)..  You will need to discuss this option with your cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. specialist.

If your lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes. are affected, treatment is normally a radical hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb).. It is possible that you may also be treated with radiotherapy.

If you want to have the chance to have children you may be able to have a radical trachelectomySurgical removal of the cervix of the uterus (womb). and pelvicRelating to the pelvis. lymphadenectomy instead. You will need to discuss this possibility with your cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. specialist. These types of stage 1 cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. are sometimes treated with chemoradiotherapyTreatment of cancer with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. instead of surgery.

Larger tumours are normally treated with chemoradiotherapyTreatment of cancer with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.. In selected cases, there may be a role for surgery alone.

Stage 2

Here the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread beyond the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. into the surrounding tissues (called parametrial tissue) but not beyond the pelvicRelating to the pelvis. wall.

If you are young and generally healthy the normal treatment is chemoradiotherapyTreatment of cancer with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.. In selected cases, it may be possible to treat with surgery.

If you want to have the chance to have children you may be able to have a radical trachelectomySurgical removal of the cervix of the uterus (womb). and pelvicRelating to the pelvis. lymphadenectomy instead. You will need to discuss this option with your cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. specialist.

This stage of cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is sometimes treated with internal and external radiotherapy instead of surgery.  You will usually also have chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. at the same time.

Stage 3

In stage 3 the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread to the lower third of your vagina or to the pelvicRelating to the pelvis. wall. For this stage of cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. you will normally be treated with internal and external radiotherapy. You will usually also have chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. at the same time.

Stage 4

The cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread from your cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. to nearby organs or into other parts of your body.

If the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread into your nearby organs it will normally be treated with internal and external radiotherapy. You will usually also have chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. at the same time.

If the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread to other parts of your body - your liverA large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats., intestineThe section of gut, or gastrointestinal tract, from the stomach to the anus. or lungs for example, it is not normally possible to cure. Treatment is aimed at improving the length and quality of your life. You will usually be treated with one or more chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. drugs.