Treatments for cervical cancer

The main treatments for cervical cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

Treating cervical cancer with surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for cervical cancer. It aims to remove the part of your cervix containing the tumour. There are different types of surgery, which include:

  • Cone biopsy: a cone–shaped piece of tissue is removed from your cervix.
  • Trachelectomy: your cervix and nearby tissues are removed but your womb is left in place.
  • Partial hysterectomy: your cervix and womb are removed.
  • Radical hysterectomy: your cervix, womb and top of your vagina are removed.
  • Bilateral salpingooophorectomy: your ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed during a hysterectomy.
  • Lymphadenectomy: the lymph nodes in your pelvis are removed.

Treating cervical cancer with radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells in your cervix. It can be given before surgery and after surgery.

Radiotherapy to the cervix can be given in two ways: externally and internally. Please see Understanding Radiotherapy booklet for more information.

Learn more about radiotherapy.

Treating cervical cancer with chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be given before surgery and after surgery. It can be used alone or in combination with radiotherapy. Some common chemotherapy drugs used are:

  • cisplatin
  • carboplatin
  • paclitaxel
  • docetaxel
  • ifosfamide
  • topotecan

Please see our Understanding Chemotherapy booklet for more about chemotherapy.

Learn more about chemotherapy. For more information about cervical cancer treatments and their side effects see our booklet: Understanding Cervical Cancer.

Advanced treatment of cervical cancer

Advanced cancer is when the cancer has spread to the nearby tissues and organs, for example, the bowel. Your treatment in this case will depend on the extent of the cancer, which organs are affected, and your general health. It may be possible to keep the cancer under control by surgery or chemotherapy. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may help to control symptoms by shrinking a cancer to prevent pressure and pain and slows its growth. This is called palliative treatment.

Side effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment you get, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite or hair loss. Many treatments cause fatigue. Radiotherapy will only affect the area where the radiation is given. Some treatments may cause long-term problems like infertility or difficulty having sex. Before treatment, your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects with you.

Learn more about side effects.

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Friday, November 4, 2016