Cervical cancer is the tumorous growth of infected cells in the tissue of the cervix that connects the uterus and vagina. Those normally at risk are women aged between 35 and 40. Cervical cancer is also caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection diagnosed among most women at risk. However, it is possible to contain the spread of cancer to some extent in its individual stages. Here’s a brief overview of treatment options.
- Stage 1
In the initial stages of the condition, the cancer spreads from the cervical lining deep into the tissue. But most of it is still contained in the uterus and the affected area. The extent of spread ranges between just 3mm to 4cm, depending on the severity of the condition. A combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be done before surgically removing the small lump of cancer cells. Women who choose to maintain the ability to bear a child may undergo a different set of procedures to preserve fertility. Possible options include a hysterectomy or radical trachelectomy depending on the decision made for surgery.
- Stage 2
The cancer spreads beyond the cervix to nearby organs like the vagina, but most of the infection is still contained in the general pelvic region. Note that at stage two also, multiple sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are done to non-surgically block most of the growth. However, women with slightly more aggressive stage 2 cancer must undergo radical hysterectomy to completely remove the womb and cervix. At this stage, preserving the ability to naturally bear a child is not medically possible. Doctors further remove part of the lymph nodes surrounding the cervix to eliminate the risk of metastasis.
- Stage 3
Stage 3 cervical cancer further indicates the aggressive growth of the cancer beyond the vagina and into the surrounding pelvic wall and lymph nodes. If the cancer continues to spread aggressively, it can affect a major artery that connects the heart to the abdomen region near the nodes. The risk of metastasis is high during this stage. A more aggressive form of treatment combining medications, chemoradiation using external beams and brachytherapy is done to contain the spread of cancer cells beyond the lymph nodes.
- Stage 4
At the final stage of cervical cancer, the infected cells start affecting the bladder or rectum. Aggressive stage 4 cancer can quickly spread to other parts of the body via the lymph nodes. At this stage, treatment is usually done to only provide relief from the pain and discomforts that develop as the cancer spreads. Beyond the lymph nodes, it is difficult to locate and destroy the infected cells. A targeted approach consisting of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgeries must be planned to remove the affected cells and help contain the spread before it reaches vital organs. Repeatedly performing chemoradiotherapy is also not possible as the cells are not designed to take in so much radiation.