If you’ve been diagnosed with a cervical cancer, talk to us about treatment options. At City of Hope, our dedicated team of experts takes a patient-centered approach to diagnosing and treating this disease.
Our multidisciplinary team pursues an integrated approach to treating cervical cancer by combining the latest research findings with outstanding patient care. This includes using advanced technologies and specialized techniques such as:
Additionally, City of Hope patients have access to our extensive team of supportive care experts, who will help you and your caregivers achieve and maintain a better quality of life during and after your cervical cancer treatment.
Request a Consultation
If you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, are at a high risk for developing cervical cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, you may request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-4673 (HOPE). Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.
Highlights of our treatment program include:
Your care continues long after treatment is completed, and we are committed to helping you and your loved ones manage your recovery. This includes our survivorship program, which has resources to improve quality of life for our gynecologic cancer survivors.
Nationally Ranked Cancer Center
City of Hope is a nationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of gynecological cancers. We are one of the few facilities designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute, and for over a decade, U.S. News & World Report has named City of Hope one of the top cancer hospitals in America. U.S. News also named City of Hope’s gynecological program as one of the top in the nation.
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What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a disease in which the cells of the cervix, the lower part of a woman’s uterus, become abnormal and grow uncontrollably.
What risk factors are linked to cervical cancer?
Most cases of cervical cancer are found in women younger than 50. It's rare in women younger than 20.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Common symptoms of cervical cancer include:
Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, you should check with your doctor to get a definitive diagnosis.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
Many women don't have symptoms of cervical cancer. A health care provider may first see signs of cancer during a pelvic exam or a Pap test.
If your health care provider thinks you might have cervical cancer, certain exams and tests will need to be done to be sure. Diagnosing cervical cancer starts with your health care provider asking you questions. You will be asked about your medical history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. Your health care provider will also give you a physical exam. You will likely need to have some tests to find out what has caused the changes in your cervix.
You may have one or more of the following tests:
Your doctor or health care provider does a pelvic exam in his or her office. This exam is recommended as a part of regular cancer screening for women. To have the exam, you need to remove your clothes from the waist down and put on a medical gown. You lie on your back on an exam table, bend your knees, and then place your feet in supports called stirrups at the end of the table. This position allows the doctor to look at or feel your cervix, uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum. The doctor places a plastic or metal tool called a speculum inside your vagina. This lets the doctor see the upper portion of your vagina and your cervix. After removing the speculum, the doctor inserts two or three gloved fingers into your vagina and uses his or her other hand to press on your abdomen. This is to feel other organs and check for lumps (masses) or anything unusual.
Some cervical cancer may be found during a pelvic exam. While your doctor can’t see precancer changes such as dysplasia, he or she may see some invasive cancer during an exam. If something suspicious is seen during the pelvic exam, more tests can help see if you have cervical cancer.
Pap and HPV tests
A Pap test is the standard way to see if there are any cervical cell changes that cause concern. An HPV test shows if you have an infection with the types of HPV that are known to be linked to cervical cancer.
Both tests can be done in the doctor's office during a pelvic exam. The HPV and Pap tests may feel uncomfortable, but they should not hurt, and it takes just seconds to do them. The doctor uses a speculum to widen your vagina and examine the upper part of your vagina and cervix. This is the area that connects your vagina to your uterus. The doctor then uses a small, soft brush to collect cells from the cervix and vagina. A specialized doctor called a pathologist looks at the cells under a microscope in a lab to check for cancer and HPV infection.
This procedure is used to allow the health care provider to look very closely at your cervix using a magnifying tool called a colposcope. It can help pinpoint abnormal areas in the cervix. A speculum is used, like during a pelvic exam, so the cervix can be seen. The doctor looks at it through the colposcope, which stays outside your body. Cells from areas that look different from the normal cervix cells may be removed to be examined in the lab. This is called a biopsy.
There are different ways to do a cervical biopsy. All are done by removing tissue to be examined under a microscope. Endocervical curettage is a biopsy where a small spoon-like tool is used to scrape cells or tissue from the part of the cervix that is closest to the uterus (cervical canal). This may be done during colposcopy. There are other procedures used to collect larger pieces of tissue from the cervix. This may be called a cone biopsy, and a laser or wire may be used to remove the tissue. You may be given medicines to put you in a deep sleep and not feel pain. Or the cervix may be numbed during these types of biopsy. A biopsy may cause some bleeding or other discharge. The area usually heals quickly. Some women also feel some pain similar to menstrual cramps.
When your health care provider has the results of your biopsy, he or she will contact you with the results. Your provider will talk with you about other tests you may need if cervical cancer is found. Make sure you understand the results and what follow-up you need.
What are the screening guidelines for cervical cancer?
A Pap test can find precancerous cells of the cervix before they become cancer. Having regular Pap tests gives you a better chance of preventing cancer. In fact, most cases of cervical cancer are found in women who have not had regular screening tests.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that all women should get regular Pap tests starting at age 21. The ACS recommendations say that:
Women between ages 21 and 29 should get a Pap test done every three years.
Learn more about our cervical cancer treatment options below:
Surgery for cervical cancer is done to remove the tumor and not leave any cancer cells behind. A gynecologic oncologist can determine if a tumor can be safely removed with surgery.
The type used depends on the extent (stage) of the cancer, as well as your desire to have children. The most common types of surgery for invasive cervical cancer include:
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be delivered externally using focused beams of energy, or internally, placing an energy emitting substance in or near the tumor site.
Your doctor may advise radiation therapy in these cases:
Women with cervical cancer who are treated with radiation usually receive low-dose chemotherapy at the same time. This makes the radiation work more effectively. For smaller cancer or one that has not spread, radiation works as well as surgery. Doctors also use radiation for larger cancer or one that has spread in combination with other therapies or to help control symptoms.
City of Hope is a leader in image-driven radiation planning, using computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans to determine tumor size and location. This ensures radiation is accurately delivered to the tumor site, while minimizing exposure to nearby normal tissues.
Drug therapy may be given to patients to fight cervical cancer cells throughout the body by killing the cancer cells or stopping their growth and spread. These drugs include:
The drug or drug combination used depends on the type and stage of cervical cancer, previous treatments used, the patient’s health and overall treatment goals. This personalized medicine approach may be further enhanced by molecular or genetic testing of your cancer, which can help identify treatments that are more effective and with fewer side effects.
In addition to standard drug treatments, patients may also be eligible for new, promising drugs through our clinical trials program.
City of Hope’s renowned physicians and researchers utilize the latest in technology and innovation to treat cancer, coupled with our enduring belief in providing unparalleled compassionate care.
Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery
At City of Hope, cervical cancer clinicians and researchers collaborate extensively to develop and evaluate new therapies for better survival and quality-of-life outcomes. Our patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials including new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, hormone therapies, novel surgical techniques, innovative radiation approaches and new prevention strategies.
These trials give current patients access to promising, leading-edge therapies and improve overall care for future patients worldwide. Visit our clinical trials page to learn more about current studies and their eligibility criteria.
Some of our current research projects include:
City of Hope is a recognized leader in cervical cancer research. We offer access to numerous clinical trials and new therapies that are not readily available elsewhere. Our latest research includes developing more precise surgical and radiation techniques for better tumor removal, identifying better drugs that help prevent relapses and finding chemotherapy agents that are more effective against the cancer or less toxic for the patient.
When you come to City of Hope, you automatically gain access to an unparalleled array of support services to help you and your loved ones take each step during and after your cervical cancer treatment.
We can help with all of the following concerns, and more:
For more information about the supportive care programs we offer, please contact the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at 626-218-2273 (CARE) or the Women's Center at 800-934-5555.