Our team of hundreds of leading cancer physicians and oncology-trained support staff is a trusted partner in returning patients with cancer to good health.
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s gynecologic oncology experts deliver comprehensive, innovative care to women with cervical cancer.
As the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today and push to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the ability to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities.
Specialized Care for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix, the organ that connects the vagina to the uterus. It’s usually caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), although having HPV doesn’t mean that a woman will develop cervical cancer. Most HPV infections go away without treatment.
UT Southwestern’s highly skilled gynecologic oncologists deliver comprehensive, compassionate care to women with cervical cancer. One specialist will oversee the patient’s entire course of treatment and work with the referring obstetrician/gynecologist before returning the patient to regular care when treatment is complete.
Detection and Prevention
Early detection and prevention are two of the best ways we can stop cervical cancer in its tracks. When women with invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed at an early stage, their five-year survival rate is 92%, according to the American Cancer Society.
Doctors check for cervical cancer using a screening method called a Pap smear. Nearly all women age 21 to 65 should be regularly screened with Pap smears, including those who have received the HPV vaccine.
Screenings are vital to detect cervical cancer early because women with this disease often don’t recognize symptoms until later stages. These symptoms can include:
- Bleeding: Bleeding after sex, after menopause, or between periods, or having longer and heavier periods
- Vaginal pain: Particularly during sex (severe pain could mean a more advanced cancer stage)
- Unusual discharge: Pink, watery discharge (often containing blood) or foul-smelling discharge
Women should be screened more often if they have any of the following risk factors:
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure in the womb, applicable to women whose mothers were given DES during pregnancy
- Family history of cervical cancer
- History of sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia, HIV, and HPV
- History of tobacco use
- Use of immunosuppression medications to treat conditions such as HIV or immune system disorders, or to prevent organ rejection after transplantation
- Long-term use of birth control pills
- Pregnancy before age 17
If cancer cells are detected, the patient’s Ob/Gyn might collect a small tissue sample, order imaging studies, or conduct a physical exam with an endoscope (a narrow, lighted tube) to learn more about the tumor. Or, he or she might refer the patient directly to a gynecologic oncologist at UT Southwestern.
An Ob/Gyn also can screen for and diagnose an HPV infection by collecting and examining cervical cells. It’s important to note, however, that HPV testing is not a substitute for regular Pap testing.
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on its characteristics and stage, a woman’s overall health, and her preferences and goals. Options include:
- Pelvic/abdominal surgery: Hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, pelvic lymph node dissection, trachelectomy, and pelvic exenteration are types of surgery that treat cervical and other gynecologic cancers.
- Radiation therapy: External beam radiation or internal radiation therapy, known as brachytherapy, are effective treatments for cervical cancer.
- Chemotherapy: UT Southwestern medical oncologists use the most advanced combinations available.
- Immunotherapy: New drugs, currently in development, can be used to enhance anti-cancer immune cell responses.
- Clinical trials: UT Southwestern offers a wide array of clinical trials that can provide access to treatments that aren’t available elsewhere (see below for more details).
UT Southwestern also offers minimally invasive surgical options as well as fertility-preserving surgery for women with early-stage cervical cancer.
UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offers an array of support services to people undergoing treatment for cervical cancer – and even for those who have been treated in the past. These services range from survivorship seminars to nutrition counseling to support groups.
Research and Clinical Trials
Recently, UT Southwestern researchers, led by gynecologic oncologist David Scott Miller, M.D., found that a cancer-fighting medical cocktail that combines the chemotherapy drug cisplatin with pemetrexed – an agent that stops cancer cells from dividing – showed promising results for advanced, persistent, or recurrent cervical cancer and was less toxic to patients than the current standard of care. Patients at UT Southwestern received this combination through a clinical trial, and the next phase of study should be available soon.
Many patients qualify to participate in gynecologic cancer-related clinical trials at UT Southwestern to access new treatments and help further research of the disease. Talk to our doctors to see if a clinical trial is available.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines
UT Southwestern abides by the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which suggests that girls and boys receive HPV vaccinations between the ages of 11 and 12. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can also receive the vaccine.
The Gardasil®9 vaccine protects against HPV strains that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.
Patients and families should speak with their doctors to learn more.
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