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Cervical Cancer Treatments: January 29, 2011

This year, it’s predicted that more than 10,000 women in the U.S. will hear the words: you have cervical cancer. “An important aspect of cervical cancer is that it occurs in younger women,” warns Dr. James Orr, a gynecologic oncologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

Because so many women are diagnosed at an early age, gynecologic oncologists will carefully consider the treatment options. “If younger women have a malignancy, they may want to desire childbearing, so we’ve actually developed an operation called radical trachelectomy that is, removal of the cervix and the connective tissue, leaving the uterus for future pregnancy.”

With no clear-cut signs or symptoms of cervical cancer, a Pap test is the best way to determine if precancerous or cancerous cells are present. If diagnosed, determining the severity of the cancer is getting better thanks to enhanced technology. “In the past, we’ve treated it blindly,” says Dr. Orr. “We’ve assumed that there was some disease here or there or not disease here or there. Now with laparoscopy, we can actually stage it, evaluate it, use chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

All of these things combined can mean a better outcome for the patient. “Even with advanced stage disease, surgical staging, followed by appropriate treatment, chemotherapy and radiation therapy offers women a dramatically improved survival over what we would have seen 5, and 10 years ago.”

January is cervical cancer awareness month so Dr. Orr reminds all women to be sure to schedule regular Pap smears with their doctor.