Cervical Cancer


What is Cervical Cancer?

The Cleveland Clinic defines cervical cancer is a malignant tumor of the cervix, the lowermost part of the uterus (womb). This cancer can be prevented with regular PAP smear screenings and a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. In many cases, patients have no symptoms. However, certain patients have experienced irregular bleeding or pain. Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Cervical Cancer Stages

Much like breast cancer, cervical cancer measures the spread of the disease upon diagnosis to determine the treatment plan. The stage depends on the size of the tumor, where it has spread, and whether the lymph nodes are affected or not.

Source: Weill Cornell Medicine

As demonstrated in the graphic above, cervical cancer has four possible stages, with varying survival levels and treatment types. Stage 1 has an 85% 5-year survival rate and can be treated with radiation therapy concurrent with chemoradiotherapy. Stage 2 is locally advanced, has spread beyond the lower part of the vagina, has a 5-year survival rate of 65%, and can be treated with chemoradiation. Stages 3 and 4 are metastatic, have a 5-year survival of 7%-35% and require systemic treatment with chemotherapy. Treatment with surgery is also always an option for patients at different stages and the decision is made case by case based on the available surgical options.

Complications of Treatment

As a result of treatment, many women experience side-effects. Below, we have listed the most common side effects for the two most common treatment types.

Lack of sexual desireLack of sexual desire
Vaginal stenosisVaginal stenosis
Vaginal drynessVaginal dryness
PolyneuropathiesRectovaginal fistula
Chronic itching
Skin rashes


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Dealing with

Acute Complications

Acute treatment complications are those normally reported between the start of treatment and the 3-month mark. These include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, skin desquamation, anemia, lymphedema. They are mostly healed when treatment has ended. Their management mainly involves supportive care, which mainly aims to treat the symptoms and increase the comfort of the patient (palliative care). 

Dealing with

Late/long-term Complications

When treatment targeting cancer ends, most side affects that are physical go away. However, some effects may linger, and others may occur months or even years after the end of treatment. These long-term side effects are said to be a burden during the survivorship journey, and they differ from person to person.

Management of Treatment Side Effects

Due to their complexity and individual nature, all kinds of experts are needed to treat the complications and side effects of cancer. The wheel below outlines evidence-based management of different complications and treatment side effects.

Source: Franzoi, Maria Alice, et al.[7]