Chemotherapy in Cervical Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cervical cancer.  During chemo, as it’s often called, drugs that destroy cancer cells are usually given intravenously, through a vein. Once in your bloodstream, these drugs travel through your body.

Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer

“Chemotherapy targets cells that might have spread to other parts of the body,” explains Debbie Saslow, PhD, director of breast and gynecologic cancer for the American Cancer Society. There are many chemotherapy drugs used to treat cervical cancer, including:

  • Cisplatin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Topotecan
  • Ifosfamide
  • Fluorouracil

Your doctor may prescribe a combination of two or more of these drugs to treat your cervical cancer. Since most chemotherapy for cervical cancer treatment is given through an IV, you will probably have your chemo at your doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital. Sometimes, it can be administered in your own home.

In most cases of cervical cancer treatment, chemotherapy is used in combination with radiation therapy .  Cancer treatment involving both chemotherapy and radiation is called concurrent chemoradiation. “After a certain stage of cervical cancer,” says Dr. Saslow, “the combination [of chemotherapy and radiation] has the best effect on survival.”

 If you are receiving radiation along with chemotherapy, you may be given both cancer treatments during the same appointment. Or you may be given a dose of chemotherapy every four weeks during the course of your radiation therapy. Your doctor will talk to you about the best cervical cancer treatment plan for you.

Side Effects of Cervical Cancer Treatment

Since chemotherapy kills healthy cells along with cancerous cells, it can cause many side effects.  They vary, depending on the drug or combination of drugs given, as well as the dose, or amount. Side effects you may experience during your cancer treatment with chemotherapy include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Hair loss or changes in hair color or texture
  • Mouth and lip sores or skin rash
  • Low levels of blood cells, which can make you more susceptible to infections
  • Increased bleeding or bruising due to minor injuries
  • Tingling and numbness of hands and feet
  • Problems with hearing or balance
  • Balance problems
  • Joint pain or swelling in the legs and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Premature menopause
  • Infertility

if you are receiving concurrent chemoradiation, you may have more side effects than with chemotherapy alone. Some women notice that they feel more nauseous and fatigued during concurrent chemoradiation; diarrhea and low blood counts may also be more of a problem.

The good news is that most of the side effects you experience while undergoing chemotherapy will disappear once you have finished your cancer treatment. Premature menopause and infertility, however, do not reverse after treatment. If this is a concern for you, talk with your doctor before you begin treatment to learn about your options.


Cervical Cancer: Taking Care of Yourself After Treatment

Preparing for your treatment goes a long way toward helping you handle its side effects. Talk to your doctor about what you can expect to face and what you should do to prepare. There are a number of ways to minimize or treat the side effects of chemotherapy, such as taking medicine to lessen nausea, that you should ask your doctor about.

Be sure to give yourself some TLC after each treatment. Get extra rest if you need it, but know you don’t have to give up all the activities you love. Ask your doctor for the go-ahead if you’re concerned about any strenuous pastimes, but remember to take time to do things that you enjoy.

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