Cervical cancer kills over 33,000 Indian women every year. We singly account for 27% of the world’s deaths due to cervical cancer. Because of the dormant nature of the human papillomavirus and our society’s norm not to talk about it thousands of women get infected without even knowing they could. Here are some of the treatment options for cervical cancer:
Precancerous changes in the cervix may be treated with cryosurgery, laser surgery. These methods, howeverare not used to treat invasive cancer. Cryosurgery is a method in which a metal probe is cooled with liquid nitrogen and placed directly on the cervix. This freezes the abnormal cells and thus kills them. Laser surgery involved vapourising abnormal cells with a focused laser beam, directed through the vagina. This method is also used to remove a small piece of tissue for study.
The treatment options for women with cervical cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of two or more of these methods. The choice of treatment depends mainly on how big your lesion is, whether your cancer has spread and whether you would like to become pregnant someday.
With surgery, the tissue that may contain cancer cells is removed. Surgery is an option for women with Stage I or II cervical cancer.
- Radical trachelectomy: This option is for women with small tumors who plan a pregnancy later on. It allows them to be treated without losing their ability to have children. The surgeon removes the cervix, part of the vagina and the lymph nodes in the pelvis.
- Hysterectomy: In total hysterectomy the cervix and uterus are removed. In radical hysterectomy, the cervix, some tissue around the cervix, the uterus and part of the vagina are removed. Women no longer have menstrual periods after a hysterectomy and cannot become pregnant. Menopause occurs at once when the ovaries are removed. More severe symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, etc.) are experienced by surgery induced menopause. Discuss this with your doctor before surgery. Some drugs help with these symptoms and may be more effective if started before surgery.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is an option for women with any stage of cervical cancer. It also may be used after surgery to destroy any remnant cancer cells in the area. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are used if the cancer extends beyond the cervix. Radiation aimed at the pelvic area can harm the ovaries. It may also help to know that if you want to get pregnant after radiation therapy there are ways to preserve your eggs before treatment starts.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In cervical cancer treatment, chemotherapy is usually combined with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy alone may be used for cancer that has spread to distant organs.
After the treatment
Have regular check-ups after treatment for cervical cancer. Check-ups may include a physical exam, Pap tests and chest x-rays. Any changes in your health are noted during check-ups and treated if needed. Your doctor will check for the recurrence of cancer. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about recurrence. It may take a while before you learn to live with this uncertainty. Don’t lose heart. Many cancer survivors have and are living full lives.
It’s important for you to eat well and stay as active as you can. However, you may not feel like eating during or soon after treatment. Foods may not taste as good as they used to. In addition, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting or mouth sores as a result of side effects of treatment can make it hard to eat well. People with cancer feel better when they stay active. Walking, swimming, yoga, and other activities can increase your energy and keep you strong. Exercise relieves stress and may reduce nausea and pain.
Prognosis of cervical cancer
When followed up and treated properly, pre-cancerous conditions of cervical cancer are completely curable. There is 92% chance of a five-year survival for cancer that has spread to the inside of the cervix walls but not outside the cervix area. The five-year survival rate falls steadily as the cancer spreads into other areas.
Also read: War on Cancer
First Published: Jan 9, 2013 at 12:30 PM