Some doctors are unable to perform what is the scientifically-proven best treatment for cervical cancer. Learn about the best cervical cancer treatment and finding the right doctor…
Cervical Cancer Treatment Options:
Which ones are best and which ones to avoid
Ladies, our goal is for you to know what the best cervical cancer treatment options are so you improve your survival outcomes. This article will go over how:
- How brachytherapy treatment improves long-term survival by 12% or more compared to women who do not receive this treatment (when combined with external beam radiation and chemotherapy)
- Know the sub-par cervical cancer treatments to avoid
- Diagnosed with cancer? Download Questions to ask your doctor about cancer so you are ready the next time your doctor asks “any questions?”
Now let’s get into it!…
While cervical cancer is on the decline in the U.S. it is the second-highest cause of cancer death in women globally. It is currently ravaging certain countries on the African and Asian continents. The reason is that the best treatment option for this disease, brachytherapy, may not be available or accessible to women in these regions. Cervical cancer is where the cells of the cervix become cancerous, typically due to infection with the human papillomavirus, which you can learn more about here.
Here are the different stages of cervical cancer:
- Stage I: Limited to the cervix (the opening of the uterus)
- Stage II: Cancer invades beyond the cervix slightly, but does not pass the pelvic wall
- Stage III: Cancer invades past the pelvic wall or the lower 3rd of the vagina
- Stage IV: Cancer spreads to the rectum and/or bladder, as well as distant organs
CERVICAL CANCER TREATMENT
The long-term cervical cancer survival rates, typically 5- to 10-years after treatment ends, are affected by the type of treatment the woman receives. Brachytherapy appears to be an excellent treatment option based on the science. It has been shown to increase the long-term survival rate of cervical cancer patients.
Brachytherapy is a type of radiation, where the radiation source is placed close to, or into, the tumor. Typically this requires a medical device that allows the radioactive source to be placed on top of, or into, the actual tumor. In the case of cervical cancer, very thin, hollow tubes are inserted through the cervix (of course the patient is under anesthesia when this happens). The radioactive source travels through these hollow tubes and stops in the location where the cervical cancer has been identified.
“Brachytherapy allows for a high amount of radiation to be delivered to the cervical tumor while lowering the radioactive dose to the surrounding organs (e.g. colon, bladder), which is a good thing.”
The major Oncology and Radiation Oncology medical societies agree that brachytherapy should be the standard of care for cervical cancer patients. They have published treatment guidelines for doctors to follow.
“These guidelines state that patients with stage Ib through stage IVa cervical cancer should receive brachytherapy in addition to chemotherapy + external beam radiation in order to improve their survival outcomes.”
External beam radiation is just like the name suggests, the radiation source is beamed from a machine that’s outside of the person’s body. This is distinctly different from brachytherapy where the radioactive source is placed inside of the body, in the case of cervical cancer.
In summary, here is a list of cervical cancer treatment options that might be presented to you if diagnosed with cervical cancer:
- Option #1: External beam radiation + chemotherapy + brachytherapy (standard-of-care for patients with stage Ia to IVb cervical cancer)
- Option #2: External beam radiation + chemotherapy (not scientifically shown to improve long-term survival)
- Option #3: External beam radiation + chemotherapy + SBRT or IMRT (not scientifically shown to improve long-term survival)
STANDARD-OF-CARE TREATMENT FOR CERVICAL CANCER
Science has shown that brachytherapy treatment is vitally important because it increases the long-term survival of women with cervical cancer when combined with external beam radiation and chemotherapy.
A recent study reviewed the U.S. national cancer database for cervical cancer cases and found that out of the 7,300 cases :
- The 4-year survival rate was 58% for women who received brachytherapy in addition to chemotherapy and external beam radiation
- The 4-year survival rate was 46% for women who received only external beam radiation and chemotherapy (no brachytherapy)
- Brachytherapy improved the survival rate by 12% in women with cervical cancer compared to women that did not receive brachytherapy
So why are some women not being treated with brachytherapy if the science shows it works to improve long-term survival? Brachytherapy is not an easy procedure to perform. Typically the Radiation Oncologist needs additional training under a skilled Brachytherapist to become good at performing this procedure. This may require them to spend time away from their practice to gain this expertise. Also, Brachytherapy is time-consuming to plan and treat, making it a less-than-ideal procedure for some doctors.
There are many Radiation Oncologists that perform brachytherapy procedures. If you’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer you can find them here.
Some doctors may try to convince women to skip the Brachytherapy treatment and add another type of less effective radiation (e.g. SBRT or IMRT). Ladies get a 2nd medical opinion before you agree to this! There is very limited long-term data to support replacing brachytherapy with other types of radiation treatments, such as SBRT or IMRT.
At The Cancer Detox we recommend that if you are offered another type of treatment option besides external beam radiation + chemotherapy + brachytherapy that you get a 2nd opinion. Find a Radiation Oncologist that treats their cervical cancer patients with brachytherapy. Ensure you ask the doctor questions about the treatment options for cervical cancer and their long-term survival rates.
- Get our guide on questions to ask your doctor about cancer
- Watch our Youtube video on the basics of a cancer prevention diet
- Get our guide on a breast cancer prevention diet
- Get a sneak-peek into The Cancer Detox program on natural cancer killers here
- Han K, Milosevic M, Fyles A et al. Trends in the utilization of brachytherapy in cervical cancer in the United States. Int J Radiat Oncol Phys 2013;87:111-9.
To Your Best Health!
Dee Grace, PhD
Hi! I am Dee Grace, PhD and I am a scientist and Health Coach for cancer patients, and I hope you enjoyed our article on cervical cancer treatment options. Our company, The Cancer Detox, helps cancer patients improve their survival outcomes by getting better care from their doctor and implementing a cancer-fighting diet. Wellness, healing, and better quality of life start here!