At North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute, our goal is to treat cervical cancer with an emphasis on minimally invasive and fertility sparing techniques.
We offer several kinds of cervical cancer treatments, depending on the nature and stage of your cancer:
- Cervical cancer surgery to remove the cancer
- Chemotherapy, a drug treatment plan to kill or halt the growth of cancer cells
- Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing
- Biological therapy (immunotherapy), which uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer
- Targeted therapy, which uses drugs to locate and fight cancer in specifically targeted cells
Because no two cancer cases are alike, specialists from the Gynecologic Oncology Center at North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute will go over the best treatment options for your specific condition.
The right treatment for your cervical cancer will depend on where the cancer is located and how far it may have spread. Cervical cancer staging uses many types of information to determine the extent of your cancer. Staging may include physical examination, radiologic studies (such as CT, MRI or PET/CT scans), blood tests and biopsies.
If you wish to preserve your fertility, your gynecologic oncologist may be able to remove only the affected tissue. Not every patient is a candidate for this option. We will discuss a variety of fertility-sparing procedures with you before beginning your personalized cervical cancer treatment plan.
Cervical Cancer Surgery
The first step in treating early-stage cervical cancer is usually surgery. Surgery may also be an option for women with recurrent cervical cancer who are not candidates for further radiation therapy.
North Shore-LIJ has been chosen by more women than any other hospital in New York State for gynecologic surgery. Gynecologists at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center have performed more major gynecologic surgery cases than any other hospital in New York State.
There are a number of cervical cancer surgery procedures available. The one(s) selected for your treatment depends on the type and stage of cervical cancer, in addition to your individual fertility concerns.
- Cryosurgery (cryotherapy) — Cryosurgery, also known as cryotherapy, uses liquid nitrogen or a very cold instrument to freeze and remove pre-cancerous cells on the cervix.
- Laser surgery — Laser surgery uses a beam of intense light to destroy pre-cancerous cells of the cervix, vagina and vulva.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) — LEEP, which is also used in the diagnosis of cervical cancer, is a surgical option that uses a thin, low-voltage wire loop as a knife to remove pre-cancerous cells from the cervix.
- Radical trachelectomy — An option for women with small, early-stage cervical tumors who wish to have children in the future, radical trachelectomy removes the cervix, part of the upper vagina and the pelvic lymph nodes.
- Radical hysterectomy — A radical hysterectomy removes the uterus, cervix, upper part of the vagina and the lymph nodes of the pelvis. For young women the ovaries remain, while for older women they are removed. Radical hysterectomy can be performed through one long incision in the abdomen (laparotomy) or through several tiny incisions, using a camera and special instruments (laparoscopy). The choice of surgical approach will depend on several factors, including the size of the cancer, the size and shape of the uterus and the patient’s personal medical and surgical history.
- Pelvic extenteration — In some cases, particularly when cervical cancer has returned after primary treatment pelvic extenteration is required. This procedure removes affected organs including the cervix, vagina, ovaries, lymph nodes, lower colon, rectum and bladder. Other surgeries may follow in order to create new openings for the release of urine and stool or to make an artificial vagina.
Robotic Surgery for Treating Cervical Cancer
The North Shore-LIJ Women’s Health robotic surgery program, featuring the da Vinci Surgical System, was one of the first programs to offer a robotic approach to treating gynecology patients in the Northeast.
The da Vinci Surgical System is a sophisticated robotic surgical platform that offers a minimally invasive alternative to complex surgery. Because it requires only a few tiny incisions and offers greater vision, precision and control for the surgeon, cervical cancer patients often experience reduced pain, less blood loss, a lower risk of infection, less scarring, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery.
Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy) for Treating Cervical Cancer
Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, uses high-energy X-rays to destroy or halt the growth of cancer cells. Radiation combined with chemotherapy is the primary treatment for more advanced cervical cancers. For early-stage cervical cancers, radiation therapy may be chosen instead of surgery. Radiation is delivered in two ways:
Using a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer (external radiation therapy)
Using a radioactive substance planted in needles, seeds, catheters or wires that are placed directly into or near the cancer (internal radiation therapy)
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
If you have cervical tumors that are difficult to reach, our radiation oncologists may use a form of external radiation therapy called intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This therapy uses a high dose of radiation, delivered to a precise location using computer based planning in order to minimize damage to surrounding tissue.
Brachytherapy is an internal radiation treatment that delivers radiation through a narrow cylinder placed inside the cervix or vagina. The length of each treatment and number of overall treatments required depend on the nature and stage of your cancer. Sometimes, radiation therapy is used in combination with chemotherapy. The way that the radiation is delivered depends on the stage of your cervical cancer and the treatment plan that’s been developed for you.
Chemotherapy for Treating Cervical Cancer
Chemotherapy is a cervical cancer treatment that uses anticancer drugs designed to destroy or stop the growth of cervical cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered in several ways:
- Orally (through the mouth)
- intravenously (through a vein) to deliver the drugs to the entire body; this is called systemic chemotherapy
A North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute medical oncologist with special expertise in treating gynecologic cancers will work with the team and with you to recommend the chemotherapy plan that is best for treating your cervical cancer.
Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy) for Treating Cervical Cancer
Biological therapy, also known as biotherapy or immunotherapy, is a cervical cancer treatment that attempts to stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer. This is an alternative to (or used in conjunction with) directly attacking the cancerous cells.
Targeted Therapy for Treating Cervical Cancer
Targeted therapy uses drugs, antibodies or other anticancer substances to locate and fight cancer in specifically targeted cells. This treatment usually spares more healthy cells and delivers fewer side effects.