Cervical cancer is cancer that forms from cells in the cervix, which is the tunnel that leads from the uterus (the womb) to the vagina.
Regular screenings for cervical cancer help your physician detect precancerous cells and allows oncologists to diagnose cancer early, when treatment may be more effective.
The Duke Cancer Institute is equipped with the most advanced imaging and diagnostic tools to identify and stage cervical cancer so that patients can start treatment as early as possible.
Approximately 11,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Incidence rates of cervical cancer are decreasing significantly due to effective screening with Pap tests and the introduction of the HPV vaccine.
The early cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer (dysplasia) can be detected by a test called a Pap smear. When caught early, these changes can be treated successfully before they ever develop into cervical cancer. Most abnormal cells found during a Pap test are not cancerous, though some may become cancerous over time.
Low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL) are changes to the cells on the surface of the cervix. LSIL is common, and is often caused by HPV infections. LSILs are not cancer, though some may eventually lead to cancer.
If a Pap exam reveals abnormal results, your doctor may order additional tests to make a diagnosis. These include:
Depending on your individual situation, many of these tests can be done in the outpatient clinic rather than the operating room.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach at Duke -- each treatment plan is developed individually, taking into account the size and stage of the tumor and the overall health and well-being of the patient.
Special care is taken to meet the needs of patients who may wish to become pregnant following treatment.
The treatment you receive will depend on how large the cancer is and where it may have spread.
Radiation therapy may be be used as the primary treatment for cervical cancer. In some cases radiation may be used to help destroy any cancer cells remaining after surgery. Some cervical cancer patients treated at the Duke Cancer Institute have chemotherapy with radiation.
Surgery is a common treatment for cervical cancer as it is often effective in removing cancerous cells in the cervix. The Duke Cancer Institute’s specialized surgeons are experienced in performing all types of surgery to remove cervical cancer.
About two-thirds of our major surgeries, including surgeries for cervical cancers and endometrial cancers, are performed laparoscopically or robotically. Single-incision laparoscopic surgery is also available for select patients.
For patients with very early cancer (stage 0), surgical procedures are used to remove abnormal cells before they become cancerous or to remove cancer itself.
The following procedures may be used once actual cancer has been diagnosed:
Learn more about these surgical procedures.
The surgeon may also remove some lymph nodes during the procedure to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
For patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer we offer chemotherapy treatment to improve quality of life and relieve symptoms.
As part of a leading academic medical center, the Duke Gynecologic Oncology Program also offers patients access to clinical trials of new therapies for gynecologic cancers, including cervical cancer.
Learn how to make an appointment at the Duke Cancer Institute.