Recurrence after Treatment of Cervical Cancer
One of the most asked questions from women after treatment for cervical cancer is «What is the likelihood that it will come back?»
Recurrent cancer is when cancer cells are detected following the initial treatment with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Treatment options for recurrent cancer varies depending on the previous treatment, where the recurrence is located, and the overall condition of the patient.
Recurrence can be either localized or metastatic. Localized means the cancer cells are confined to the pelvic organs near the cervix. Metastatic means the cancer cells have spread throughout the blood and lymphatic system to other organs in the body. There are three options used to treat the recurrence of cervical cancer - pelvic exenteration, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Recurrent cancer can be eliminated in approximately 60% of the affected patients.
If the cancer has not moved beyond the cervix, then a radical hysterectomy is appropriate treatment. Sometimes, small cancer cells can spread beyond the cervix. This is usually determined by examining the under a microscope. This situation occurs more frequently with large stage IB or stage II cervical cancer.
A small amount of cancer recurrence can be treated with radiation therapy if it has not been performed before. Patients with prior radiation therapy may be able to undergo a pelvic exenteration which is a surgical procedure that removes the cancer and pelvic organs. This is only done if cancer cells are not detected anywhere else in the body. Approximately one-third of recurrent cancer patients will survive cancer free five years after treatment.
Cancer cells that have spread outside the pelvic area and were not removed by surgery are difficult to detect. This type of recurrent cancer is called micrometastases.
Some patients can experience a recurrence of cervical cancer after radiation therapy. Once a patient has received prior treatment of radiation therapy, additional radiation therapy cannot be safely administered to the same area. These patients can also undergo a pelvic exenteration as long as the cancer has not spread elsewhere in the body. Approximately one-third of recurrent cancer patients will survive cancer free five years after treatment.
Cancer cells that have spread to other areas of the body are difficult to treat. Historically, doctors consider patients with metastatic cervical cancer as incurable. Chemotherapy can be offered for the purpose of prolonging their lives but most patients are being managed for pain and bleeding.
No single chemotherapy approach can improve survivability in patients with metastatic cancer. Some medications can produce shrinkage of 15-25%. Many of these medications produce numerous side effects. Unfortunately, they are only effective for a few months and then the cancer begins to grow again.
The chances of recurrence of cervical cancer are drastically reduced if detected early with a Pap smear or by visual detection. Cancer detected in the early stages can easily be treated and managed. A healthy lifestyle can help speed the recovery and reduce the likelihood of recurrence by not smoking, avoiding excess alcohol, exercising and choosing a low-fat high-fiber diet.
This page was last updated:
April 22, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.