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:
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.
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:
- 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)
- doxorubicin or liposomal doxorubicin
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.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our cervical cancer, cervical screening and CIN information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
GOV.UK. Cervical screening: programme overview. Updated 18 November 2019. Available from www.gov.uk/guidance/cervical-screening-programme-overview (accessed March 2020).
GOV.UK. Colposcopic diagnosis, treatment and follow up. Updated 5 February 2020. Available from www.gov.uk/government/publications/cervical-screening-programme-and-colposcopy-management/3-colposcopic-diagnosis-treatment-and-follow-up (accessed April 2020).
Marth C, Landoni F, Mahner S, et al. Cervical cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines. Annals of Oncology, 2017; 28, suppl 4, iv72–iv83. Available from www.esmo.org/guidelines/gynaecological-cancers/cervical-cancer (accessed October 2020).
Reed N, Balega J, Barwick T, et al. British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) cervical cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice. 2020. Available from www.bgcs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/FINAL-Cx-Ca-Version-for-submission.pdf (accessed October 2020).
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.
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