How Is Cervical Cancer Treated?

Cervical cancer treatment

The gynecologic oncology care team at The University of Kansas Cancer Center is committed to providing you with compassionate, comprehensive and personalized care.

Personalized patient care 

We develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs and your particular type of cancer. Our multidisciplinary team of gynecologic cancer specialists   ̶   gynecologic oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists  ̶   collaborates to tailor a treatment plan specifically suited to your needs.

Our gynecologic cancer specialists meet regularly at a tumor conference, where they discuss your care and compare it to nationally established guidelines. This multidisciplinary team of specialists creates and coordinates treatment strategies for each patient.

Clinical trials 

We encourage our patients to take part in clinical research trials. Many of these studies are initiated by our own gynecologic cancer investigators, who design and implement the research as we work to provide the most advanced gynecologic cancer care. Through these trials, we evaluate potential new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating cervical cancer.

Advanced treatments 

Our gynecologic cancer specialists provide the most advanced medical and surgical care for cervical cancer patients.

Treatment for precancerous lesions 

We may perform one or more of the following tests to determine if you have cervical cancer and if it has spread. 

  • Biopsy: A biopsy for cervical cancer involves removing a small amount of cervical tissue to examine under a microscope. These include: 
  • Cone biopsy: Removes a cone-shaped tissue sample to determine if abnormal cells appear in the tissue beneath the surface of the cervix. This procedure may involve one of the following methods: 
    • Knife cone biopsy: Uses a scalpel in a surgical suite with local or general anesthesia. 
    • Laser: Uses a carbon dioxide laser to remove tissue. 
    • LEEP cone biopsy: Uses LEEP in the physician’s office under local anesthesia.
  • Colposcopy: Uses a colposcope, a type of microscope, to examine abnormal tissue on the cervix, vagina or vulva.

A pathologist will review the abnormal cells under a microscope to see if they are slow-growing or have invaded other tissue. If the cells are slow-growing and not likely to spread, no further treatment may be necessary. Be sure to continue getting regular pelvic exams and Pap tests.

Treatment for invasive cervical cancer

If we find cancer, treatment will depend on your: 

  • Cancer stage 
  • Cancer grade (how likely it is to grow quickly or come back) 
  • Age 
  • General health

If we think your cervical cancer may have spread, we may recommend a cytoscopy or proctoscopy or both. These tests allow us to view the inside of the bladder, anus, rectum and lower colon.

Imaging tests we may use include: 

  • Chest X-ray 
  • CT scans 
  • MRI scans 
  • PET scans 
  • PET/CT (combined PET-CT imaging)

Surgical treatment 

Our gynecologic oncology surgeons, who are nationally renowned, will perform surgery to remove abnormal tissue in or near the cervix. If the cancer is only on the surface of the cervix, the surgeon may remove the cells using techniques similar to those used to treat precancerous lesions.

If the disease has invaded deeper layers of the cervix but has not spread beyond the cervix, the surgeon may remove the tumor but leave the uterus and ovaries. This is called a radical trachelectomy. The procedure is done to preserve fertility in young women with early cervical cancer.

In other situations, it may be necessary to remove the uterus, including the cervix, and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This is called a radical hysterectomy. The surgeon may also remove lymph nodes near the uterus to learn whether the cancer has spread to other organs. In some instances, the ovaries and fallopian tubes may not need to be removed.

Whenever possible, our gynecologic oncology surgeons use minimally invasive robotic surgery techniques. One such procedure is a robotic retroperitoneal lymph node dissection. This minimally invasive surgical procedure removes lymph nodes to determine if cancer has spread.

Other surgical procedures we perform include:

  • Conization
    Conization involves removing a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. We do this using a surgical or laser knife or with a thin wire heated by electricity (the loop electrosurgical, LEEP or LEETZ procedure). After the procedure, we examine the tissue with a microscope. If the margins of the tissue contain cancer or pre-cancer cells, some cancer may have been left behind, so we determine necessary further treatment.

  • Trachelectomy
    We also perform radical trachelectomy, which allows women being treated for cervical cancer to preserve their fertility. The surgery is done either through the vagina or the abdomen, and is sometimes done laparoscopically.

    During the procedure, we remove the cervix and the upper part of the vagina but not the body of the uterus. We then place a "purse-string" stitch to act as an artificial cervical opening inside the uterine cavity. We also remove nearby lymph nodes using laparoscopy.

    After trachelectomy, some women can carry a pregnancy to term and deliver a healthy baby by cesarean section. Oftentimes, women who have had this procedure have a higher risk of miscarriage.

Radiation treatment

Radiation OncologyMost often, treatment for invasive cervical cancer involves surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy   ̶   also called radiotherapy ̶  is a precise, local treatment of high-energy rays that can be delivered externally or internally. External radiation often involves several weeks of treatment. It is a highly targeted and highly effective way to destroy cancer cells in the cervix that may linger after surgery. Radiation therapy is relatively easy to tolerate and its side effects are limited to the treated area. Your care team’s radiation oncologist will oversee your radiation treatments.

For internal or implant radiation, a capsule containing radioactive material is placed directly inside the cervix. The implant emits cancer-killing radiation close to the tumor while sparing healthy tissue around it. The implant can emit low-dose or high-dose radiation (HDR), but we generally use HDR. Implants remain in place for a specified length of time.

We use the most advanced technology and techniques to deliver radiation to your cervical cancer, while avoiding exposure to normal tissues. Your radiation oncologist will work closely with you and others on the team to determine the best course of radiation treatment for your personal needs.


Cervical cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, a medication that stops or slows the growth of cancer cells throughout the body. Your gynecologic oncologist may use one drug or a combination to enhance the healing effects of the radiation.

Our gynecologic oncologists are nationally recognized. They will discuss treatment options with you and personalize your care to the type and stage of your disease. Additionally, they will tailor your treatment to other health issues you may have, such as a heart condition or diabetes.

Treating the whole person 

Before beginning treatment, we will discuss preventive steps that may be appropriate for your care plan. This includes:

  • Reproductive medicine services. Many cancer treatments can cause temporary or permanent infertility. To ensure the best chances for conception after treatment, patients must take steps to preserve their fertility before receiving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. 
  • Onco-psychology services to assist you and your family with emotional support before, during and following treatment, including sexual health counseling. 
  • Comprehensive cancer care services such as nutrition, fatigue management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, social work, personal appearance, wellness, financial and survivorship. 
  • Turning Point: The Center for Hope and Healing offers cancer-related wellness programs and educational classes at no charge, as well as programs for children of all ages. 

Clinical trials 

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we provide nationally recognized leading-edge treatment through clinical trials. Clinical trials lead to new ways to prevent, detect or treat disease and are at the heart of all medical advances. 

Nearly all cancer treatments used today were studied and made available to patients through clinical trials. In the last six years alone, our researchers have advanced seven new cancer drugs into clinical trials. 

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, these advances are happening now. We are changing the world. One trial, one life, at a time. Learn more about our clinical trials. 

Contact us to make an appointment
(913) 588-1227
Toll free: (844) 323-1227

Referring physicians
(913) 588-5862
Toll free: (877) 588-5862