Cervical Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

Cervical Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

Preventive Screening

Unlike other gynecological cancers, cervical cancer can be detected through preventive screening exams. Cervical cancer screenings have saved many lives by detecting the presence of cervical cancer at an early stage. There are two main types of preventive screening for cervical cancer available.

  • Pap Test — a Pap smear, or Pap test, is a screening test that checks for cervical cancer. It’s the best method for detecting cancer at an early stage, even before you begin showing symptoms.
  • HPV Test — HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). An HPV test checks for the genetic material (DNA) of HPV. The test is done on a small sample of cells collected from the cervix. 

How to Diagnose Cervical Cancer

If you experience worrisome symptoms or have abnormal screening results, your Mercy doctor may recommend additional tests to confirm or rule out a cervical cancer diagnosis. The following tests may be used to diagnose cervical cancer:

Colposcopy

During this procedure, your Mercy doctor uses an instrument known as a colposcope to examine the cervix with magnifying lenses. It’s a relatively safe and non-invasive procedure.

Hysteroscopy

A hysteroscopy is performed with an instrument known as a hysteroscope, a thin tube that’s placed by your Mercy doctor into the vagina to examine your cervix.

Cervical Biopsies

There are several types of cervical biopsies which include: colposcopy biopsy, endocervical curettage, cone biopsy, loop electrosurgical procedure and cold knife cone biopsy. All types of cervical biopsies can be used to treat both cervical pre-cancers and cancers. In some instances, biopsies can remove all your abnormal tissue.

Cystoscopy

Your Mercy doctor will sometimes recommend a cystoscopy to check for signs of cancer within the bladder and urethra. In this procedure, a tube is placed into the bladder through the urethra.

Proctoscopy

This procedure is a visual inspection of your rectum, usually done to find out if cervical cancer has spread beyond the cervix into the rectum.

Imaging Tests

Certain imaging tests such as CT scans, PET scans and MRIs can be done to look inside your body to determine whether cervical cancer has spread. Imaging tests will guide your Mercy doctor in developing your treatment plan. 

Cervical Cancer Treatment Options

Treatment of cervical cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, how far it’s spread, your age and overall health. If cancer hasn’t spread beyond the cervix, your Mercy doctor will usually perform surgery to remove pre-cancerous or cancerous cells.

Your Mercy care team will determine the most appropriate treatment options for you and coordinate your appointments with our oncologists. If you’re diagnosed with cervical cancer during pregnancy, your treatment will also depend on how far along you are. If you're in your third trimester, your oncologists may recommend delaying treatment until after your baby is born. 

Cervical Cancer Surgery

Mercy offers several surgical procedures to remove pre-cancerous cells or early-stage cervical cancers that haven’t spread. Mercy has many skilled surgeons to perform these gynecological procedures using minimally invasive, robotic-assisted approaches. Types of surgery for cervical cancer can include:

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery, also known as cryotherapy, this procedure destroys abnormal tissue on the cervix by freezing it. Cryosurgery causes some discomfort, and most women will feel a sensation of cold and cramping.

Carbon Dioxide Laser Surgery

Carbon dioxide laser surgery is a procedure is used to destroy or remove abnormal cervical tissue, leaving normal tissue intact. It’s a relatively brief procedure, usually done in just 10 to 15 minutes.

Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)

The LEEP procedure uses a wire loop that has a low-voltage electrical current to remove abnormal tissue from the cervix. It’s usually done in your Mercy doctor’s office and only takes a few minutes.

Conization

Also known as a cone biopsy, conization removes a cone-shaped area of tissue high in the cervical canal. While recovery time is usually a week for this procedure, women can usually go home after a brief observation period.

Advanced Surgery Options

For cervical cancer that has spread beyond the cervix, advanced surgical options may include:

  • Trachelectomy — this procedure removes the cervix and the upper part of the vagina, leaving the uterus intact. Following a trachelectomy, women can usually still carry a healthy child to term
  • Hysterectomy — a hysterectomy is a surgery done to remove a woman’s uterus. Minimally invasive surgical techniques requiring fewer and smaller incisions may be available. Talk to your Mercy doctor before having this procedure to see what your options are.
  • Pelvic Lymph Node Dissection — usually done at the same time as a hysterectomy or trachelectomy, this procedure involves the removal of lymph nodes to check for cancerous spread. It’s also referred to as lymph node sampling
  • Pelvic Exenteration — all of the same organs are removed as in a hysterectomy, in addition to pelvic lymph node dissection. It’s typically performed for specific cases of recurrent cervical cancer

Mercy Gynecologic Oncology

Robotic Surgery

Radiation Therapy

There are many kinds of radiation therapy treatments available to cervical cancer patients. Some of the most common include:

High-Dose Brachytherapy

During high-dose brachytherapy treatment, your Mercy doctor places a high dosage of radioactive material inside your body to treat your cancer. You may need several short treatment sessions over the span of a couple of weeks.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

IMRT allows your Mercy care team to match radiation beamlets to the exact size and shape of your tumor. The goal of IMRT is to maximize the number of beams hitting your tumor, and minimize the number of beams hitting your healthy tissue. 

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used with radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer that can’t be removed with surgery. It can also be used to treat cancer that has spread to other areas of the body or has returned after prior treatment. Chemotherapy is usually delivered into your veins through an IV and given in cycles, which allows your body to recover in between treatments. 

Cervical Cancer Support

We understand that a cancer diagnosis can be frightening and challenging in many ways. Your Mercy care team is committed to providing the best possible treatment with compassion and support. It’s our mission to care for you every step of the way and help you return quickly to your normal everyday activities.