Although a cervical cancer diagnosis can be distressing, you can take comfort knowing your care team at the Women’s Cancer Program has decades of experience achieving positive outcomes for women with cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer occurs when cancer cells begin growing within the cervix (the lower part of the uterus that connects it to the vagina). Fortunately, it is one of the most curable forms of cancer and has one of the best survival rates.
Having one or more of these risk factors means you may be more likely to develop the disease. However, some people with these risk factors never develop cervical cancer. Taking steps to lower the risk factors that you can control can help reduce your chances of getting cervical cancer. They include:
- Lack of Pap testing: Doctors suggest that women over age 21 receive a Pap test (or Pap smear) every three years. Your gynecologist will gently remove some cells from your cervix to screen for cancer.
- History of human papillomavirus (HPV): Women who have had HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, have a higher incidence of developing cervical cancer.
- Smoking: Women who smoke are twice as likely to get cervical cancer than nonsmokers.
Cervical cancer is preventable. Steps you can take include:
- Getting vaccinated: The HPV vaccine prevents most types of HPV infection that lead to cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women through age 26 and men through age 21 get the vaccine.
- Practicing safer sex: Using condoms during sex and limiting the number of sexual partners both reduce the risk of HPV infection.
- Getting regular Pap smears with an HPV test: Pap smears detect early changes that can indicate precancerous cells. Have a Pap smear as often as your health care provider recommends, and ask if you need an HPV test. It can detect HPV infection in women age 30 and older.
- Quitting smoking
Your doctor will determine the size of the tumor during a thorough gynecologic exam and then use diagnostic tests to determine if the cancer has spread. Stage 1 cervical cancer indicates early disease, while Stage 4 suggests that the cancer has spread beyond the cervix.
We use diagnostic tests such as:
- CT scan: A technician takes multiple X-rays of your abdomen. Then, a computer combines them to form one 3D picture that will show any abnormalities or tumors.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: We insert into the vagina a lubricated probe that creates images of the uterus and ovaries using high-frequency sound waves. You may also have a pelvic ultrasound, in which a technician passes the transducer over the lower abdomen. Combined, these tests allow us to see the entire reproductive system.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: First, we inject a small, safe amount of a radioactive sugar substance into a vein. The substance collects in cancerous cells, highlighting areas of cancer. This test helps us determine if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas.
- Colposcopy: This test allows the doctor to examine the surface of the cervix for signs of cancer, using a colposcope (a specialized magnifying device).
- Biopsy: The doctor will remove a small tissue sample from the cervix. Then, a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in examining tissue samples and identifying cancer) tests it for signs of cancer.
- Cytoscopy: During this procedure, a doctor will insert a slim tube with a lens into the bladder through the urethra. Through the instrument, the doctor can see if cancer has spread to those organs. You will receive local or general anesthesia for this test.
- Proctoscopy: The doctor will use a thin, lighted tube to look into the rectum to see if cancer has spread there.
Our specialists work together to review your case and determine a personalized treatment plan. Then we meet with you and your family to discuss the details of your care so you feel confident and informed. We may use one treatment approach or a combination to help you get the optimal outcome:
- Surgery: Our goal is to remove as much of the cancer as we can in the least invasive way possible. This approach can help minimize pain and recovery time.
- Radical hysterectomy: During this procedure, the surgeon removes the uterus, cervix and a small portion of the vagina.
- Radical trachelectomy: A gynecologic oncologist removes the cervix and a small part of the vagina.
- Chemotherapy: This aggressive medication slows the growth of cancer cells. Our team will determine the correct chemotherapy dosage for you and help manage any possible side effects.
- Radiation therapy: Specialists from the Cedars-Sinai Radiation Oncology Department administer high-dose radiation beams directly at the tumor to shrink or eradicate it.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs help your body’s immune system fight the cancer.
- Clinical trials: Through our clinical trials program, we can offer new treatments, approaches and medicine to our patients before they are available to the general public.
We will be here for you every step of the way during treatment and recovery. As part of our resources, we provide:
- Fertility management services: The compassionate team at the Cedars-Sinai Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center will meet with you to discuss your options for having a child after cervical cancer treatment.
- Palliative care: We will keep you as comfortable as possible during and after your treatment through the Cedars-Sinai Supportive Care Medicine Program. You will have access to spiritual care, a dedicated social worker and support groups.
- Recovery: If you are in remission or recovering from cervical cancer, you will benefit from the exercise classes, nutrition counseling and physical therapy available through the Cedars-Sinai Survivorship Program.
Why Choose Cedars-Sinai for Cervical Cancer Care?
Women come to our program because we use the latest research and scientific findings. You will benefit from:
- Patient-centered care with knowledgeable doctors: You are the focus of everything we do. Our gynecologic oncologists are experienced, board-certified physicians with a long history of treating cervical cancer, and they work together to give you the best care possible. All of our doctors participate in research and serve in leadership positions with national organizations, so you will have access to innovative treatment options.
- A collaborative approach: Our team of doctors convenes weekly to review the most complex cases. We use our combined expertise to determine a personalized and effective treatment plan for you. We work closely with the doctors at the Cedars-Sinai Breast Cancer Program to coordinate care for women with cervical cancer, because they may have a greater risk for breast cancer. We collaborate with the specialists at the Cedars-Sinai Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center to give you options for conceiving a child after treatment.
- Leading-edge technology: We use minimally invasive surgical treatments whenever possible. This approach leads to less discomfort, quicker recovery and minimal scarring.
- Clinical trials: Because of our research focus, we have a vast selection of clinical trials available at all times. In addition, you will also have access to therapies from the Cedars-Sinai Experimental Therapeutics Program.
- Support services: We have interpreters available in more than 26 languages to assist our multicultural population. You will also receive help from social workers, nutritionists and psychiatrists during treatment and recovery.
Give us a call and we will help you find the right care as soon as possible.