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Expert Cervical Cancer Care at Weill Cornell Medicine
Our expert gynecologic oncologists care for patients compassionately to offer the best possible chance for cure with the best possible quality of life. Our team focuses on decreasing toxicity and protecting quality of life with fertility-sparing surgical techniques, as well as sentinel lymph node biopsies.
Cervical cancer patients find comfort in our personalized, holistic, and warm approach to care. In addition to access to experts at a leading academic medical center, our patients also benefit from greater access to their attending physician, video visits, e-message, flexible scheduling, and collaborative care with a wide range of specialists.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cervix, the part of the uterus that opens into the vagina or birth canal. It is the only gynecologic cancer that can be prevented with regular screening and a preventative vaccine.
Cervical cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth in the two main types of cervical cells:
- Squamous (or flat) cells that protect the outside of the cervix
- Glandular cells, found primarily inside the cervix, that produce fluid and mucus
Cervical Cancer Prevention and Screening
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that is spread during sex. For most women, HPV goes away over time. Women have a higher risk for cervical cancer if they have persistent HPV, smoke, have HIV, use birth control pills for more than five years, have given birth to three or more children, or have multiple sexual partners.
The HPV vaccine protects against the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer. Typically, the HPV vaccine is given to preteens. In addition, quitting tobacco use and limiting the number of sexual partners helps prevent cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Two screening tests help detect cervical cancer:
- Regular Pap tests (typically every three to five years) to detect precancerous cells in the cervix
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
Cervical precancers typically do not cause symptoms. Once cancerous cells have developed, the most common symptoms include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Vaginal odor
- Pain during sex
How We Diagnose and Stage Cervical Cancer
Our physicians first perform a general physical and pelvic exam. If cervical cancer is suspected, you may undergo an HPV test or a biopsy.
If cancerous cells are found, this represents a diagnosis of cervical cancer. It is important that you seek out care from highly trained gynecologic oncologists for targeted, personalized treatment and care.
Imaging and Staging
It is critical to determine if and where the cancer is and the extent of disease. Our team of expert gynecologic oncologists carefully evaluate each patient to determine the stage of cervical cancer and develop a personalized treatment plan.
- Stage I: Cancer is found only in the cervix.
- Stage II: Cancerous cells have spread to the upper part of the vagina or the tissue around the uterus.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lower part of the vagina or the pelvic wall. Cancerous cells may have also spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the bladder, rectum, abdomen, liver, or lungs.
A PET MRI scan helps determine the stage without radiation exposure. Surgery may be recommended to better determine the stage.
Cervical Cancer Treatment Options at Weill Cornell Medicine
Our team of gynecologic oncologists personalize treatment depending on many factors, including cervical cancer stage and fertility goals.
Individual treatment plans may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other treatment options. Our physicians work closely with patients to minimize side effects and promote greater comfort throughout treatment.
Precancerous Growth Removal
If precancerous cells are detected our gynecologic oncologists can surgically remove them with laser ablation and conization to remove only the cancerous parts of the cervix. These treatments can protect fertility.
Other options include cryotherapy (chemically freezing cancerous cells to remove them from the cervix) and Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) biopsy (a small electrical wire is used to remove cancerous cells from the cervix).
At Weill Cornell Medicine, our gynecologic oncologists are highly trained surgeons who tailor surgical treatments to the patient’s unique needs and goals. Surgical options may include:
- Radical hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, cervix, and some supporting ligaments)
- Minimally invasive robotic-assisted laparoscopic and hysterectomies for appropriate patients
- Radical trachelectomy (removal of the cervix and surrounding tissues). In this procedure, the upper uterus is preserved for future pregnancy. This approach is recommended for appropriate patients only and is dependent on several factors.
Our gynecologic oncologists work closely with expert radiation oncologists at Weill Cornell Medicine to treat appropriate cervical cancer patients with radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancerous cells. To limit side effects and damage to healthy cells, cervical cancer patients are usually given chemotherapy in cycles with several rest periods.
Women may receive intravenous chemotherapy after surgery, in combination with radiation, for the treatment of recurrent cancer. Our expert gynecologic oncologists determine the most effective combination of drugs for each patient depending on a variety of factors.
Our patients benefit from Weill Cornell Medicine’s state-of-the-art chemotherapy treatment center, which provides unique support and resources.
Immunotherapy is the use of medications to stimulate your immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Your physician determines the best immunotherapy medications and timing for taking them.
With care from a highly trained gynecologic oncologist, immunotherapy can be an integral part of your cervical cancer treatment.
Our gynecologic oncologists work closely with the expert reproductive medicine specialists at Weill Cornell Medicine to offer cervical cancer patients options to preserve fertility, including radical trachelectomy and egg or embryo freezing.
Comprehensive, Interdisciplinary Cancer Care
The gynecologic oncologists at Weill Cornell Medicine collaborate with other specialists and researchers within the cancer center to offer unparalleled interdisciplinary care at our top-ranked hospital.
Weill Cornell Medicine patients have access to specialists in gynecology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, pathology, radiation oncology, genetics, nutrition, social work, and reproductive medicine. In addition, our patients benefit from collaborative care with:
- The Integrative Health and Wellbeing Program
- The Weill Cornell Medicine Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center
- The Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine
- Psychiatry Specialty Center
Our gynecologic oncologists and physician assistants work closely with patients to promote wellness during and after treatment – with the goal of helping you return to the full breadth of functional living you enjoyed before the diagnosis. Our team provides frequent follow-up care and monitoring for recurrence.
In addition, we will connect you with support groups, services, and resources to live as fully as possible.
Other Support Services
- Subsidized cold caps, a device used to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy
- Genetic counseling
- Psychosocial services, including supportive and adjustment counseling, crisis intervention, psychosocial evaluations and treatment planning by social workers and psychiatrists