Chemotherapy for cervical cancer

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:

  • 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 you have chemotherapy

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

You will usually have chemotherapy through a small tube (cannula) in your hand or arm.

Sometimes it is given through a soft, plastic tube called a central line or PICC line. These lines go into a large vein in your chest. Chemotherapy can also be given into a thin, plastic tube with a rubber disc (port) under the skin on your upper chest.

Chemotherapy is given into your vein during one or more sessions of treatment. The length of each session will vary depending on the combination of chemotherapy drugs you have. After each session, you will have a rest period. The chemotherapy session and the rest period is 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.

Drugs used for chemotherapy 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:

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