Cervical Cancer Therapy

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Cancer of the cervix is completely preventable if women across the world attend regular screenings after a particular age. Also, the treatment and management of the disease in its initial stage is simple than in advanced stages. There are various treatment options for the disease, inclusive of invasive and non-invasive surgeries and also therapies.

Cervical cancer therapy offers betterment of the health condition, relief from the disease symptoms and improvement in the life expectancy. Usually, in the early stage of the disease, surgery is preferred whereas, in the advanced stages and recurrent cancers, therapies with the help of special radiations or anti-cancerous medicines are preferred.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are two main therapies to address advanced tumor growth that has spread beyond the cervix to the surrounding organs. Usually, the therapies are preferred in advanced stages, but for some cases, radiation therapies may be given even after the cancer surgery for cervical. A patient may be administered both these therapies in combination as well.

Radiation Therapy for Cervical Cancer:

This is one of the most popular treatment techniques for the management of any type of cancer and cervical cancer is not an exception to it. A radiation surgery may be the primary treatment of stage 0 of cervical cancer, for women, who cannot have surgeries.

The technique is based on the use of high-energy radiation rays such as x-rays to treat the cancerous growth of a specific part of the body. This technique of treatment may be used as complementary to surgery to make sure that all the cancerous cells are killed which were left behind after the surgery.

The main aim of radiation therapy is to destroy the tumor in the cervix or surrounding area, and relieve symptoms such as pain and bleeding.

Types of Radiation Therapy:

According to the growth of the cancer, there are two types of radiation therapies that an oncologist may suggest. In a few patients, both these types of radiation therapies are used.

  • External Radiation - As the name suggests, the radiations are directed to the affected area, but externally. A radioactive machine is placed outside the body, while the radiations are directed towards the cervix or pelvic region to destroy the malignant tumor.

    This treatment is usually done as an outpatient treatment and in multiple sittings. A patient has to visit the clinic or hospital to receive the therapy and then immediately she can be discharged home. The procedure takes a few minutes and is repeated for 5 days a week and continues till several weeks.

  • Internal Radiation - This technique uses the radiations, but through a special instrument such as tubes that is placed internally in the vagina of the patient. This radioactive tube is placed in the patient's body depending upon the severity of the stage, may be a few hours or days. Hence, the patient needs to be admitted to the hospital or clinic. However, attendants and visitors are not allowed to see the patient during the inpatient treatment, so as to protect them from the adverse effects of radiations. The procedure may require repetitions over weeks.

Adverse Effects of Radiation Therapy:

Almost everyone, who has undergone a radiation therapy, will experience some adverse effects of the therapy such as:

  • Nausea
  • Frequent urination
  • Narrowed vagina
  • Tender skin in the affected area

Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer:

Chemotherapy is another popular method to treat the cancerous growth in the body. Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer medicines to be administered in the body through injections or orally. These anti-cancer or cytotoxic medicines kill the abnormal tumor cells to relieve the symptoms of cervical cancer and also increase the life expectancy of a cancer patient.

This therapy is useful in the advanced stages of cervical cancer and is preferred before the radiation therapy, as it improves the efficacy of radiation therapy by contracting the cancerous cells. However, the most common adverse effect of chemotherapy is nausea and hair loss. This happens due to the inability of the medicines to distinguish between the normal and abnormal cells and it attacks both without discrimination.

Common Drugs Used for Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer:

There are a few common medicines used for chemotherapy to treat cancer and these medicines may be taken solo or in combination with other medicines as per the suitability.

  • Corboplatin
  • Ifosfamide
  • Paclitaxel
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Cisplatin

Chemotherapy Procedure:

An oncologist is the authorized person to plan the chemotherapy sittings for a patient. The type of chemotherapy also may be decided by the doctor. It may be in form of oral or topical medicines and intravenous injections. Injections are the most popular form of administering the medicines.

The treatment plan of cervical cancer may long for weeks and the injections are given at the hospital or clinic and needs around 30 minutes for each sitting. A few patients may require the repetitive anti-cancer chemotherapy for weeks while others may need it for months. After stipulated time, repetitive treatments will be required in chemotherapy approach.

Adverse Effects of Chemotherapy:

  • Nausea and stomach upset
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness of body or certain parts
  • Gradual hair loss
  • Mouth sores

Cervical cancer therapy have gained popularity in the patients and their family members as it lifts their hopes of better quality of life with controlled symptoms of the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation therapies are the two main therapies to address the condition. Both these therapies may be used in combination or may be used alone. Oncologists will decide the level of the radiation therapy required and the number of sittings for a patient, after considering her health, adaptability previous response and advancement of the cancer. The therapies are usually given at the hospital or clinic and repeated over weeks or months.

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