Cervical cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the cervix. The cervix connects the lower part of the uterus to the vagina. It is usually caused by various strains of the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. In a small percentage of people the virus can cause cervical cells to become cancerous. The treatments cervical cancer patients undergo are decided based on the cancer stage.
The various stages and their treatments include the following:
1. Carcinoma In Situ (Stage 0)
Stage 0 is the first stage of cervical cancer. It is also called the pre-cancer stage. Here, the cancer cells are only in the surface layers of the cervix. The treatments cervical cancer patients can undergo include laser surgery, cryosurgery, or cold knife treatment.
Cancer can return after treatment sometimes. In such a case, a hysterectomy is the only option, where the cervix and uterus are removed to prevent cancer from spreading.
2. Stage IA1 And Stage IA2
In these two stages, the cancer is found in the cervix. In Stage, IA1 the tumor is less than 3 millimeters deep. Whereas, in Stage IA2, it is between 3 and 4 millimeters deep. In both cases, the width is less than 7 millimeters.
At these stages, if the patient wants to remain fertile, then cone biopsy or a radical trachelectomy is performed. In these procedures, the pelvic lymph nodes are removed. If the patient decides that she doesn’t want to be pregnant in the future, then doctors perform a radical hysterectomy. It includes the removal of the cervix, uterus, and pelvic lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are necessary if the cancer has spread to the tissues surrounding the uterus.
3. Stage IB1 And IIA1
In Stage IB1 as well as in stage IIA1, the tumor will not be more than 4 centimeters in size and is visible without a microscope. Cancer would have spread to the upper part of the vagina in this stage.
If the patient wants to be fertile, then a radical trachelectomy is performed. Otherwise, they can opt for a radical hysterectomy. Chemoradiation may be necessary at this stage, depending on the circumstances.
4. Stage IB2 And IIA2
The tumors are more than 4 centimeters and seen without a microscope in this stage. Cancer would not have spread to the pelvic wall but would have reached the uterus from the cervix.
In these stages, radical hysterectomy and chemoradiation are the treatment options.
5. Stage IIB, III, And IVA
During these stages, the tumor grows in size and spreads to the pelvic wall and the lining of the bladder or the rectum. It may even block the ureters or affect the kidneys.
Chemoradiation with medicines, external beam radiation, and brachytherapy are the treatments for these stages of cancer.
6. Stage IVB
Stage IVB is the final stage of cancer. Apart from the reproductive and urinary system, cancer would have spread to other parts of the body including the liver, lungs, and bones.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy are the treatment options at this stage. Apart from these, patients can opt for clinical trials with new drugs and other experimental treatments.
The treatments cervical cancer patients undergo are determined based on the extent of cancer growth, which is decided by the staging of cancer.