Chemotherapy for cervical cancer

Chemotherapy may be your main treatment. Or it may be given to reduce the risk of cancer coming back after surgery.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. These drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide, but they also affect normal cells.

You may have chemotherapy to treat cervical cancer:

  • with radiotherapy as your main treatment – this is called chemoradiation
  • after surgery and with radiotherapy (chemoradiation), if there is a high risk of the cancer coming back
  • if the cancer comes back after treatment
  • if the cancer spreads to other parts of your body.

How chemotherapy is given

You may have chemotherapy in the chemotherapy day unit or on the ward. The drugs are usually given into a vein (intravenously).

During one or more sessions of treatment. The length of each session depends on the combination of chemotherapy drugs you have. After each session, you have a rest period. The chemotherapy session and the rest period are called a cycle of treatment.

The length of a cycle depends on the chemotherapy drugs you have, but most cycles are 1 to 3 weeks long. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how many cycles of treatment you will have.

Chemotherapy drugs for cervical cancer

A number of different drugs may be used to treat cervical cancer. Your doctor will explain to you which drugs are best for you. You may be given one chemotherapy drug, or two or more in combination. Drugs that may be used include:

 

Side effects

Chemotherapy may cause side effects. For example, many drugs can make you more likely to get an infection. And some drugs may affect the nerves and cause numb, tingling or painful hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy). If you know the name of the chemotherapy you are having you can search for it in our treatment & drugs A-Z.

Many side effects can be controlled with medicines, and usually go away when treatment finishes. Your doctor or nurse will tell you more about what to expect. Always tell them about any side affects you have, as there are usually ways they can help.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Nick Reed, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.