Treatment and Reproducing After Cervical CancerThe sooner cervical cancer is caught and treated, the better your prognosis. If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, how it is treated will depend on your age, the location of the abnormal or cancerous cells and whether or not you hope to have children in the future.
Before the cells in your cervix fully mutate into cancerous cells, they will appear as unusual cells in a PAP smear. If your PAP smear shows this type of pre-cancerous cells, you will be told that you have abnormal cervical cells. While this is not actually cervical cancer, you will probably be advised to seek treatment now since it is more than likely that these abnormal cells will go on to develop into cancerous cells.
If you have abnormal cells, there are six common ways to treat them, most of which will not affect your fertility.
- Excision: This procedure involves cutting out the abnormal cells
- Electrocautery: For this treatment, a metal rod that has an electric current running through it is used to burn and destroy any abnormal cells in your cervix
- Cryosurgery: The abnormal cells are frozen through the use of carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide
- Laser Vaporization: In this procedure, a laser beam is used to burn off the area affected by the abnormal cells
- Radical Trachelectomy: This treatment involves removing the entire cervix
- Conization: This procedure is both a form of treatment and diagnosis. It involves removing a cone-shaped area of the affected cells which is then sent for biopsy.
Cervical Cancer Treatment
If your PAP smear shows that the cells have advanced to cancerous cells, there are a few different ways the cancer will be dealt with.
- Hysterectomy: This procedure may be suggested if your PAP smear has shown severely abnormal cervical cells, which indicates that they will soon be cancerous, or if you have repeatedly had abnormal PAP smears. In this instance, the hysterectomy will involve the complete removal of the cervix and uterus. When a hysterectomy is performed to treat cervical cancer, however, your cervix, uterus, any tissue that holds the cervix and uterus in place, the top of the vagina as well as the lymph nods that surround the uterus will need to be removed. If the cancer has progressed to the advanced stages, it may also be necessary to remove part of the bowel, rectum, bladder and/or the lymph nods surrounding the bowel and bladder.
- Radiation Therapy: This type of treatment is used for both early and advanced stages of cervical cancer. During radiation therapy, the cancerous cells are reduced and killed off through the use of high doses of x-rays or radioactive substances. This treatment can be done intensively over a two to three day period whereby a large dose of radioactive material is placed directly into the vagina to destroy the cancerous cells. This is known as internal therapy and requires you to stay in the hospital during the course of treatment. There is also an external therapy option, which does not require a hospital stay. To receive this type of treatment, you commute to a hospital or clinic several times a week for a period of weeks during which time you receive the radiation therapy.
- Chemotherapy: This type of treatment is done on an outpatient basis and uses drugs to destroy the cancer cells. Because the medication is administered through pills or injections that quickly get into the blood stream, it is easier for the drugs to find and kill the cancerous cells. This type of treatment is sometimes combined with radiation therapy.
Conceiving After Cervical Cancer
If you have been treated for cervical cancer, it is unlikely that you will be able to become pregnant naturally afterwards. Hysterectomy is the most common form of treatment for cervical cancer but as this involves the complete removal of your reproductive organs, it will be physically impossible to become pregnant. Opting for radiation therapy or chemotherapy may leave your organs intact but it can also cause significant damage to them, again making it virtually impossible to conceive.
Before deciding on a course of treatment, discuss with your doctor your desire to have children. There may be alternative types of treatment or steps you can take to preserve your fertility.
Cervical Cancer in Pregnancy
It is very rare for a pregnant woman to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Women who are diagnosed with cervical can receive treatment but in some cases it may necessitate the need to terminate the pregnancy.
When cervical cancer is detected in its very earliest stage, 1A, and a woman is past her first trimester, it should be possible to delay treatment until after the child is delivered. Women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer during the first three months of pregnancy, though, will be urged to seek immediate treatment although it would require that the pregnancy be terminated.
By the time cervical cancer has progressed to stage 1B, a woman will be faced with the decision as to whether or not she should end her pregnancy. Choosing to terminate the pregnancy would result in immediate treatment, most likely hysterectomy or radiation therapy. If you would rather continue your pregnancy, you will give birth by cesarean section as soon as your child can survive outside of the womb thereby allowing you to receive treatment as soon as possible.
Once cervical cancer has progressed past stage 1B, women are advised to seek treatment for the cancer immediately.
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