Cervical Cancer Facts

Treatment | Surgery | Chemotherapy | Radiation Therapy

Página en español

Goal of Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It does not work well when used alone for cervical cancer.

Most women with cervical cancer have chemotherapy combined with radiation. This is called chemoradiation. This treatment helps radiation work better. It also reduces the chance that the cancer will spread. Chemoradiation may be used by itself or before or after surgery.

Doctors may also use chemotherapy in women whose cervical cancer has spread and who can't have other types of treatment.

Making the Decision to Have Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer

Chemotherapy is often used to make radiation more successful. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy in cases such as these.

  • Your cancer has spread and you are unable to have surgery or radiation therapy.
  • You have Stage IB, II, III, or IV cancer.
  • Your doctor wants to combine chemotherapy with radiation to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back, called recurrence.

If your doctor suggests chemotherapy for you, take the time to get all your questions answered. You may want to start by asking questions such as these.

  • Why do I need this chemotherapy?
  • What drugs will I be taking? How often? For how long? What will they do?
  • How and where will I take the drugs?
  • What can I do about side effects?
  • How long will I be on this treatment?

What Happens During Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. You may take these drugs by mouth, as an injection into your body, or both ways.

You receive chemotherapy every 3 to 4 weeks. This cycle allows normal cells to recover. Most patients have chemotherapy in an outpatient part of the hospital or at the doctor's office. If you are taking oral chemotherapy, you may receive it at home. You may spend some time in the hospital, depending on your health and which drugs you receive.

You may also be getting radiation therapy at the same time since low-dose chemotherapy may help it work better.

Chemotherapy for cervical cancer usually involves a combination of drugs injected into an intravenous (IV). These are some of the drugs used.

  • Platinol (cisplatin)
  • Paraplatin (carboplatin)
  • Taxol (paclitaxel)
  • Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide)
  • Ifex (ifosfamide)
  • Flourouracil, Adrucil, Efudex (5-FU)

What to Expect After Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer

Because chemotherapy hurts normal cells as well as cancer cells, it often causes side effects. The side effects are different for everyone. They depend on these things.

  • The type of drug you're taking
  • How often you take it
  • How long your treatment lasts

Your medical oncologist and chemotherapy nurse will talk with you about possible side effects of your treatment. You should talk with your healthcare team about which ones are most likely for you. These are some of the more common side effects of chemotherapy used for cervical cancer.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling of hands and feet
  • Anemia
  • Infections

Infections can be serious. They occur because chemotherapy lowers the number of white blood cells. White blood cells fight infections. You should immediately call a doctor if you get a fever during chemotherapy. Without treatment, infections may lead to death.

return to top of page return to top of page