If you or your loved one is dealing with a diagnosis of cervical cancer, our comprehensive team of gynecologic oncology specialists at West Cancer Center & Research Institute is here to provide you with the latest treatments and technology to design a personalized treatment plan specific to your disease. Our goal is to also provide resources and information to better help you understand and manage your cervical cancer.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina, and most are squamous cell cancers with adenocarcinoma as the second most common type. Because it is slow growing, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer that can be detected with a pap smear and regular screening plus vaccinations to prevent human papillomavirus.
Stages of Cervical Cancer
Abnormal cells are found in the innermost lining of the cervix. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue (also called carcinoma in situ)
A very small amount of cancer that can only be seen with a microscope is found in the tissues of the cervix and the cancer is not more than 3 millimeters deep and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
The cancer is more than 3 but not more than 5 millimeters deep, and not more than 7 millimeters wide.
The cancer can only be seen with a microscope and is more than 5 millimeters deep and more than 7 millimeters wide; or
- the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is not more than 4 centimeters.
- In stage IB2, the cancer can be seen without a microscope and is more than 4 centimeters.
Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the upper two thirds of the vagina but not to tissues around the uterus.
The tumor can be seen without a microscope and is not more than 4 centimeters.
The tumor can be seen without a microscope and is more than 4 centimeters.
Cancer has spread beyond the cervix to the tissues around the uterus but not onto the pelvic wall.
Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina but not onto the pelvic wall.
- Cancer has spread onto the pelvic wall; or
- The tumor has become large enough to block one or both ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder) and has caused one or both kidneys to get bigger or stop working.
Cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum.
Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or distant lymph nodes.
*Source: National Cancer Institute, March 28, 2018
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we urge you to speak to your provider as soon as possible for further examination.
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
- Bloody, watery discharge that may be heavy with a foul odor
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, after menopause or between periods.
How to Diagnose Cervical Cancer
If you have an abnormal Pap smear results you may have one or more of the following procedures to determine your diagnosis:
A sample of tissue is removed for examination and to determine a diagnosis.
A procedure done during a pelvic exam with the aid of a colposcope, which is like a microscope. By using acetic acid on the cervix and examining it with a colposcope, your provider can look for abnormal areas of your cervix. Then, the most abnormal areas can be biopsied.
CT (COMPUTERIZED TOMOGRAPHY) SCAN
Combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays.
Is done using a thin, hollow, lighted instrument called a cystoscope. Your doctor will insert the cystoscope into your urethra and slowly move it into your bladder. Small surgical instruments can be inserted through the cystoscope to remove samples of tissue for a biopsy, stones, or small growths.
Is advanced software used during surgical procedures for endometrial cancer patients to identify the sentinel left node (main lymph node) that drains the uterus. This process helps diagnose more patients with microscopic metastasis to the nodes than typically would be done without the Firefly technology. This digital imaging process involves staining the nodes with a dye called lndocyanine Green which lights up the nodes with a green hue, allowing our surgeons to trace and stage those specific lymph nodes, which more often results in positive tests.
“Magnetic resonance imaging” is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within your body. Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms in your body.
Typically part of your annual gynecologic examination, a pap test swabs the vagina and cervix for cells for examination.
The uterus, vagina, bladder, and the rectum are examined by your physician for lumps and abnormal sizes.
“Positron Emission Tomography” is an imaging test that helps reveal how your tissues and organs are functioning. A PET scan uses a radioactive drug (tracer) to show this activity. This scan can sometimes detect disease before it shows up on other imaging tests.
Proctosigmoidoscopy is an examination of the lower colon using a sigmoidoscope, inserted into the rectum. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing.
SENTINEL LYMPH NODE BIOPSY
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed to determine if cancer cells have spread to your lymph nodes. This minimally invasive procedure removes the main (sentinel) lymph node to test for cancer.
Surgery can be necessary if your doctor can’t be certain of your diagnosis until you undergo surgery to have tissue removed and tested for signs of cancer.
Types of Cervical Cancer Treatments
Your cervical cancer treatment plan will vary depending on multiple factors, including but not limited to your stage of diagnosis, as well as the location of your cancer. Your dedicated team of cancer experts will discuss your treatment options and plan with you, allowing you and your loved ones to consider all possible treatment options for your diagnosis. Potential treatment options for your diagnosis include:
A drug therapy designed to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, chemotherapy may be used with radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer.
Ask your physician if you are a candidate for a clinical trial.
A surgical procedure where a cone-shaped sample of tissue is removed from the cervical canal. This is often used as the primary treatment of precancerous cervical cancer.
A surgical procedure used for pre-invasive cancer where cancer cells are frozen with a metal probe that has been cooled with liquid nitrogen.
A surgical procedure that includes the removal of all or parts of the affected uterus.
Typically the first phase of treatment for ovarian cancer, a laparotomy is a surgical procedure that allows for exploration of the abdomen and removal of as much of the cancer within the abdomen and pelvis area as possible. This procedure helps to diagnose and stage the cancer to determine additional therapy needed.
A surgical procedure used for pre-invasive cancer that uses laser beams to burn off abnormal cells. The laser may also be used for tissue removal for biopsy.
A surgical procedure often used for recurrent cervical cancer, this procedure includes the removal of the uterus, upper vagina and lymph nodes, along with the removal of the bladder, rectum and small parts of the colon.
Radiation therapy is the use of high energy beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation is sometimes given before or after surgery to help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back and can be used to relieve symptoms from cancer. To learn more Radiation Oncology and the types of radiation therapies offered at West Cancer Center, click here.
A surgical procedure that involves the removal of the entire uterus, including the cervix, upper vagina and affected lymph nodes.
A minimally invasive options where smaller, precise incisions are made which decrease recovery times to 1-2 weeks and improves our patient’s quality of life.