1. Precise and definite diagnosis is first important step. Cervical cancer is usually diagnosed by performing:
- A vaginal examination
- Colposcopy examination
- Biopsies of the cervix or tumour
2. Following diagnosis, the next step is to assess the extent of spread (Stage) of the cancer by:
- CT Scan; MRI Scan or PET-CT Scan
- Chest X-Ray; Blood Test
- Examination-under-anaesthesia of the cervix, pelvis and bladder.
What are the treatment options for cervical cancer?
An operation to remove the cervix and the uterus is a common treatment. If the cancer is at an early stage and has not spread then surgery alone can be curative.
In some cases where the cancer is at a very early stage, it may be possible to just remove the part of the cervix affected by the cancer without removing the entire uterus.
Radiotherapy is a treatment, which uses high-energy beams of radiation, which are focused on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying.
Radiotherapy alone can be curative for early stage cervical cancer and may be an alternative to surgery. For more advanced cancers radiotherapy may be advised in addition to other treatments.
Chemotherapy is a treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs, which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying. Chemotherapy may be given in addition to radiotherapy or surgery in certain situations.
What are the different stages of cervical cancer, their treatment and the chances of cure ?
1. Microscopic Stage
- Surgery is a preferred mode of treatment for very early (microscopic) disease.
- A hysterectomy can be avoided at the earliest of this stage.
- Cure rate : 90% to close-to-100%
2. Early Localised (confined to the pelvis) Stage
- Surgery and radiotherapy are equally good. The choice of treatment will depend on the wish and needs of the patient involved. In surgery, a radical (more extensive) hysterectomy is required.
- Cure rate : Averages 70% - 90% (average 85%)
3. Locally (still confined to the pelvis) Advanced Stage
- Combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy is used and the treatment would usually take about 2 months.
- Surgery is not used to treat this stage of disease.
- Cure rate : 30% – 60%
4. Metastatic Disease (Distant spread has occurred)
- Where the cancer has spread to distant organs like the lungs, liver or bones, chemotherapy would be employed together with radiotherapy.
- Cure rate : Very poor. Less than 20% of patients survive to 5 years.