Chemotherapy for cervical cancer
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth while causing the least possible damage to healthy cells. Chemotherapy may be given if the cervical cancer is advanced or returns after treatment, and may be combined with radiation therapy.
The drugs are usually given through a vein (intravenously) and most women have treatment as an outpatient. The number of chemotherapy sessions you have depends on the type of cervical cancer and any other treatments you may be having. If you have chemotherapy without radiation therapy, you are likely to have six sessions, scheduled every 3–4 weeks over several months.
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The side effects of chemotherapy vary according to the drugs given, how often you have treatment, your general health and fitness, and whether you have chemotherapy alone, or as part of chemoradiation. You may experience nausea or vomiting, feel tired, or lose some hair from your body or head. Chemotherapy can also cause temporary or permanent menopause.
Chemotherapy may reduce the number of blood cells in your body. Depending on the type of blood cells affected, you may feel very tired and be more prone to infections. If your temperature rises to 38°C or above, seek urgent medical attention. You will have regular blood tests during treatment to monitor the levels of blood cells.
Most side effects are temporary, and your treatment team can help you to prevent or reduce them.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecological Oncologists, TAS; Karina Campbell, Consumer; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland; Prof Martin K Oehler, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Dr Megan Smith, Program Manager – Cervix, Cancer Council NSW; Pauline Tanner, Cancer Nurse Coordinator – Gynaecology, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician, Physiotherapy Department, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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