Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cervical cancer cells. The drugs travel through the blood to the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used:
- Before surgery—to shrink the tumor and how much tissue needs to be removed
- With radiation therapy—to decrease tumor size
- To help ease the symptoms of spreading cancer, and to increase survival time
Chemotherapy Drugs and Delivery
There are many chemotherapy drugs. The ones that are used depend on the type of cancer and the person's reaction to drugs. Chemotherapy drugs for cervical cancer may include:
- Fluorouracil (5-FU)
- Larotrectinib or entrectinib
Chemotherapy for cervical cancer is most often given through an IV. Some forms can be given by mouth. It is given in cycles over a set period of time. A cancer doctor will determine the number of cycles and type of drugs.
Side Effects and Management
The drugs affect cancer cells and healthy cells. This can lead to side effects. The cancer doctor will try to find the best drugs to treat the cancer and reduce the side effects. Side effects may include:
- Changes in menstrual periods
- Early menopause, which can be short-term or lasting
- Needing to pass stools or urine quickly or often
- Numbness, pain, or burning sensation in the hands and feet—peripheral neuropathy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tiredness due to anemia
- Problems thinking
There are many treatments to help manage side effects. They include medicines, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. If side effects are severe, the doctor may try different medicines.
Some side effects may be long-term. It depends on which drugs are used.
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Cervical cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/gynecologic-tumors/cervical-cancer. Accessed April 19, 2021.
Chemotherapy for cervical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/treating/chemotherapy.html. Accessed April 19, 2021.
Marquina G, Manzano A, et al. Targeted agents in cervical cancer: beyond bevacizumab. Curr Oncol Rep. 2018 Apr 2;20(5):40.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/patient/cervical-treatment-pdq#section/_180. Accessed April 19, 2021.
Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 10/12/2021