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In addition to radiation therapy, Perlmutter Cancer Center doctors may recommend chemotherapy—drugs that are used to kill cancer cells throughout the body—to manage cervical cancer that has spread beyond the cervix. Chemotherapy may also be used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Chemotherapy alone may be given when cervical cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, or when it has returned after other treatments.
Most of the chemotherapy drugs used to manage cervical cancer are given through a vein with an intravenous (IV) infusion. One of the most common drugs used, cisplatin, is given about once a week for several hours before external beam radiation therapy. Cisplatin may also be combined with other chemotherapy drugs and given every few weeks before radiation therapy.
Our doctors may add bevacizumab, a monoclonal antibody drug also known as Avastin®, to chemotherapy. This targeted therapy is made of antibodies—immune proteins that remove foreign substances such as viruses from the body—that attach to the surface of cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies interfere with the formation of blood vessels that let tumors grow. By targeting cancer cells and not healthy tissue, they may cause fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy, though bevacizumab causes a rise in blood pressure in some women who take it.
Managing Side Effects
Because chemotherapy is often given in combination with radiation therapy, our doctors carefully manage doses to help minimize possible side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, and mouth sores. They can also prescribe medication to help manage these side effects, and Perlmutter Cancer Center offers a range of supportive and integrative services.
Chemotherapy can cause a woman to begin menopause—when she stops having her period—at a younger age than expected. Our gynecologic oncologists and fertility experts are available to discuss options for preserving your ability to have a child.
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