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Treating Cervical Cancer with Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy Drugs, Side Effects, and More

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Updated April 22, 2014

Depending on the stage of cervical cancer, a doctor may prescribe chemotherapy for treatment. Chemotherapy commonly accompanies another treatment method, like surgery or radiation therapy.

What is Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment method that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. These anti-cancer drugs target cancer cells and destroy them. Unfortunately, some drugs aren't as effective in targeting cancer cells, resulting in damage to healthy cells. This is why people often lose their hair during chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy drugs are given most often intravenously (IV) or by mouth. There are several other methods of giving chemotherapy, but most drugs used to treat cervical cancer are given through IV or in a pill form.

Types of Chemotherapy Drugs Used to Treat Cervical Cancer

Several types of chemotherapy drugs are used to treat cervical cancer. Common drugs include:

  • carboplatin
  • cisplatin
  • paclitaxel
  • fluorouracil, 5-FU
  • cyclophosphamide
  • ifosfamide

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Side effects of chemotherapy vary, depending on the type of drug. Common side effects include hair loss, stomach upset, and fatigue. Medications can be prescribed to help combat side effects like nausea and fatigue. Unfortunately, no medications are available to prevent hair loss. Some chemotherapy drugs are more effective in targeting cancer cells, minimizing hair loss.

Frequency of Chemotherapy

The frequency and duration of chemotherapy depends on many factors. The oncologist will develop a treatment plan that is based on type of cancer, stage, other health factors, type of chemotherapy drug prescribed, and other treatment methods being utilized.

Some women may undergo weekly treatment session while receiving daily radiation therapy treatments. Other women may receive chemotherapy regularly for months. Again, it varies from patient to patient based on several factors.

Some women do not tolerate chemotherapy treatment well and treatment will either be slowed down, delayed, or changed to an alternate plan.

Before Beginning Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can be an intensive treatment for some. There are several things a woman should know before beginning chemotherapy:
  • what chemotherapy drug is being prescribed
  • why that certain drug was chosen over others
  • the duration and frequency of treatment
  • side effects of medication
  • side effects that require immediate medical attention
  • how successful is the chemotherapy drug in women with similar case histories
  • how chemotherapy will effect daily living
  • over the counter medications you can take, such a pain relievers or other medications
  • whether you need to have someone drive you home after each chemotherapy session
  • what items you can bring with you, such as an iPod, handheld gaming device, etc.



Sources:

"Detailed Guide: How Is Cervical Cancer Treated." 04 AUG 2006. American Cancer Society. Accessed 10 Aug 2007.

"Cervical Cancer PDQ: Treatment Overview." 27 Feb 2007. National Cancer Institute. Accessed 10 Aug 2007.

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