Cervical cancer, which is diagnosed in the precancerous or early stages (especially in younger women), is straightforward to treat and send into remission. The survival rates for these types of treatments are very high. The treatment process has many options which are:
- Targeted therapy
- Biological therapy
This treatment procedure for cervical cancer uses unique and powerful drugs to kill the cancer cells. These drugs seek out large and fast-growing cells since these are usually cancerous. It works throughout the body, meaning that it can destroy cancerous cells in all parts of the body. The downside of chemotherapy is that it can cause some damage and affect the function of vital organs because it tends to kill off healthy skin, hair, intestinal, and bone marrow cells.
Chemotherapy, if strong enough, can destroy all cervical cancer cells. Once this occurs, the doctor will prescribe certain medicines to ensure that cervical cancer cells and precancerous cells don’t form and grow again. In some cases, chemotherapy can keep the cancer cells localized – this means they don’t grow fast and stay confined to certain parts of the body. It can also ease symptoms and reduce pain and suffering by shrinking the size of tumors dramatically. The disadvantage is that these tumors tend to grow back quickly. Chemo is administered intravenously.
Chemotherapy has specific side effects that vary depending on the types of medicines. The more common side effects include:
- Abnormal periods
- Constantly feeling tired
- Hair falls out more often and faster
- Decreased appetite
- Sores in the mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
Women who receive radiation treatment along with chemotherapy tend to increase many more side effects than women who receive just radiation treatment or chemotherapy. While most side effects disappear after treatment ends, some can be permanent.
The doctor will use small particles containing large amounts of potent radiation to destroy cancer cells. This can be done through a machine which saturates the outer body parts, or by surrounding certain body parts (including the insides) with radioactive medicines.
The surgeon will use a scalpel to take out all cervical cancer tumors and surrounding tissues to ensure that any isolated cancer cells can’t grow or spread. There are many types of surgeries that effectively remove cancerous cells and tumors of cervical cancer and precancerous cells. Remember to consult with your doctor regarding fertility since many of these surgeries can negatively impact fertility. One of these is conization. This surgery is excellent at removing small, isolated tumors. The surgeon takes them out in the form of cones. This surgical procedure is done with a knife, a laser, a scalpel, or LEEP. Fertility is preserved with conization.
The hysterectomy removes the entire uterus, including the cervix. Women who have this surgery can’t have kids. This is the preferred surgery if the cancerous cells remain confined to the cervix. The doctor could make a small incision in your belly and remove the uterus and cervix this way. He or she can also poke little holes into the abdomen and remove the uterus and cervix that way. This procedure may sometimes require the surgeon to remove the fallopian tubes because cancer may have spread there. In rare cases, the surgeon may have to remove the ovaries and pelvic lymph nodes.
Since all these procedures involve major and complex surgeries, you’ll need 1 to 5 days of hospital time to recover.
Modified Radical Hysterectomy
Modified radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, and surrounding ligaments. The surgeon will remove the upper portion of the vaginal canal as well. The pelvic nodes may have to be removed in certain rare instances. Surgeons either make a sizeable vaginal incision or use a laparoscopically aided device transvaginal, to perform the surgery.
After the surgery, you may have to stay in the hospital for up to a week. Some side effects include trouble urinating and urinary incontinence, which may temporarily require a catheter.
Trachelectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the cervix and upper vaginal walls. This is best if you have cervical cancer in the early stages and want to remain fertile. This can be done laparoscopically or through a vaginal incision. Any children will be born by c-section.
Pelvic exenteration is the surgery of choice for recurrent cervical cancer. The cervix, uterus, and surrounding lymph nodes are removed and surrounding organs, including the bladder and the colon. Patients must use a colostomy bag if they want to defecate.
Cryosurgery freezes precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix with liquid nitrogen. This freeze and kills the cells. The cells will pass through your vagina in the form of watery discharge during the next few weeks. This process can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Surgeons prefer to do this surgery on women whose cancer is in stage 0 because the cancer cells have only grown on the cervix’s outer surface.
Laser surgery is also simple and can be done in the ob-gyn’s office or in an outpatient setting like a clinic. This is the surgery of choice for women whose cervical cancer has not progressed beyond stage 0. A laser beam will be used to burn off precancerous and cancerous cells. The doctor may also choose to do a biopsy to examine the nature and type of cancer. Women are given local anesthesia, so they don’t feel any pain.
Brachytherapy uses radiation to kill precancerous and cancerous cells. A small device is placed inside the vagina, which works wonders. Brachytherapy is the safest and best results for cancer which is in the early stages. This can be done either in the clinic or at home and is a straightforward and safe procedure.
In this treatment procedure of cervical cancer, doctors will introduce certain viruses, antibodies, and bacteria that can kill the cancerous cells and tumors into the affected areas. This tends to be effective in terms of keeping cervical cancer in remission.
This type of treatment uses powerful drugs like Avastin to target and attack the sources nutrition, which cervical cancer cells need to grow. These sources are blood vessels. Avastin is referred to as an angiogenesis inhibitor because it kills the proteins which make blood cells that help cervical cancer develop and spread. It is a synthetic drug (referred to as a monoclonal antibody by doctors.) when Avastin is used with chemo, the results are amazing. The cells die faster, and regrowth is either stopped or drastically slowed down. If the chemo works, doctors will replace it with Avastin.
But targeted therapy does have side effects. These are:
- High blood pressure
- Constant fatigue
- Lowered desire to eat
These side effects are rare but serious:
- Bleeding which doesn’t easily or quickly stop
- Blood clots
- Wounds which heal slower
Another infrequent but severe side effect is a fistula. This occurs when connective tissue grows between the vagina and colon or intestine. It can be life-threatening.
This treatment process strengthens the immune system and trains it to attack and kill cancer cells. This is a popular therapy for cervical cancer, which has come out of remission or has metastasized. One commonly used immunotherapy medicine is Keytruda. It will be given intravenously once every three weeks. Keytruda targets a protein on T cells called PD-1. In healthy immune systems, PD-1 keeps immune systems from attacking other vital body cells. It prevents PD-1 from acting and stimulates and strengthens the immune system to enable it to attack and kill cervical cells faster. This drug is beneficial in radically shrinking tumors.
Women who manage their physical and mental health and weight recover faster and stay in remission more quickly, mainly because their minds and bodies are relatively healthy and robust. This also prevents them from becoming depressed – depression can prolong cervical cancer. Regular exercise and diet are vital in maintaining good physical health and weight. For best results, women should eat foods like-colored fruits and vegetables and leafy green vegetables which are rich in antioxidants – these include vitamins A, C, and E
Women should also consume foods high in complex carbohydrates. These are found in many fruits and vegetables and foods made from whole grains. Complex carbohydrates are abundant in the energy which women need to fight cervical cancer and keep it in remission.
They need to eat foods that are rich in healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are found in salmon and many other types of fish, avocados, and many kinds of nuts. The fat will be stored in their bodies and will give them the extra energy reserves they need to fight cervical cancer successfully.
Foods that are rich in proteins strengthen healthy and immune cells. This makes it easier for women’s bodies to fight cervical cancer and keep it from coming back. Good examples of these types of foods include fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, and other dairy products.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats are full of healthy vitamins and minerals needed to give the immune system the boost that needs to fight cervical cancer and keep it from coming back.
Women who have cervical cancer should drink lots of water because this will flush out the toxins which help cervical cancer cells grow.
Regular exercise flushes toxins out of the body, strengthens the immune systems, and stimulates the production of serotonin, which makes women naturally feel better. The latest research reveals that women with cervical cancer who exercise regularly are stronger, have more muscle mass, have healthier appetites, and have more energy. All of these are needed to help make their treatment plans more potent in fighting and killing precancerous and cervical cancer cells.
Since mood is a compelling factor when fighting off cervical cancer because it gives these women more energy and strengthens their immune systems, women who have cervical cancer should make sure that they are not depressed. They can seek out counseling and psychiatric help if they become depressed. Psychiatrists can prescribe powerful antidepressants, which can make these women feel better and be less depressed.
These women can seek out many local, regional, and national counseling groups, which will give the psychological and emotional support they need to stay mentally healthy. Women who have cervical cancer who feel good emotionally also tend to have higher rates of survival, heal faster, and longer remission rates.
Women with cervical cancer should pay attention to their looks. Research reveals that women who have cervical cancer and look good also feel good, and this is a crucial factor in terms of strengthening the immune system and making the body strong enough to fight and kill precancerous and cervical cancer cells. Major organizations like the American Cancer Society realize this and have sponsored many programs that help women look their best. The American Cancer Society, for example, supports a national program known as ‘Look Good, Feel Better.’ Women who participate receive tips and help regarding keeping their hair and nails in the best condition. They also learn about the best makeup and hairdressing and styling techniques, which will always make them look and feel beautiful.
Follow up With Doctor
Women who get rid of cervical cancer are always at risk of developing it or precancerous cells again. They will see the doctor approximately every three months for the first two years after having undergone successful treatment. They will see their oncologist at least every three to five months for the next five years after that. Once they have been in remission for at least five years, they only need annual follow up visits.
Doctors will ask probing questions, which will give them detailed information regarding their present health. Any side effects they may be experiencing because of their treatment plans, and if they are experiencing any symptoms, which would indicate that their cervical cancer is coming back. The standard procedures during these visits include:
- A pelvic exam
- A digital rectal exam
- Checking the lymph nodes which rest above the collar bones for any abnormal lumps or growth
- A pap smears
Women may have to wait a few years before they receive a pap smear during follow up appointments because their treatment plans often change the nature and composition of cells in their cervixes, uteruses, and surrounding areas. They need a few years for these cells to return to normal.
They may have to undergo several tests which include:
- Complete blood count and blood chemistry tests
- A colposcopy
- Imaging tests like the MRI, CT scan, and PET scan
Doctors will ask them if they have been experiencing any symptoms, which would indicate a recurrence of cervical cancer. These include questions which gather information about
- Any new pain in the pelvic area, hips, or back legs
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Abnormal bowel functions or movements
- Strange and dramatic weight loss which can’t be explained by conventional means
- A persistent cough
Though it is cancer, which affects many women and can be deadly in the later stages, it is entirely treatable if diagnosed in the early stages. It can even be prevented in some instances!