Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as treatment for your cervical cancer. Chemotherapy is used to treat cervical cancer to enhance the effectiveness of radiation therapy or to treat disease that has spread too widely to be treated with surgery or radiation.
"Chemotherapy" means treating cancer with drugs. You may receive one drug or a combination of two or more. Your chemotherapy will be given by injection into a vein. It works by killing fast-growing cells, but the drug cannot discriminate between cancer cells and other fast-growing cells such as hair follicles. That is one reason for many of the typical side effects of chemotherapy treatment, including hair loss.
Cervical cancer is usually treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs given intravenously, including:
- Carboplatin, or Paraplatin®
- Cisplatin, or Platinol®
- 5-FU, brand names are Flourouracil®, Adrucil®, and Efudex®
- Paclitaxel, or Taxol®
- Topotecan (Hycamin).
The most common combinations given at SCCA are carboplatin and Taxol, cisplatin and Taxol, and cisplatin and ifosfamide.
Chemotherapy is given on various schedules. If you are receiving chemotherapy in conjunction with radiation therapy, you will probably receive cisplatin intravenously once a week for six weeks. You will receive daily radiation therapy treatments during that six weeks as well.
Or you may receive chemotherapy once every three or four weeks for a period of three to six months.
Some women will receive chemotherapy after they have undergone surgery and radiation if some cancer still remains. In this situation, the chemotherapy is used to slow the progress of the cancer or shrink it temporarily. Unfortunately, it is rare for chemotherapy to completely kill cervical cancer.
Chemotherapy is given in the Infusion Suite on the fifth floor of SCCA. You may bring a friend or family member to sit with you during your treatment, which may last several hours.