How treatment is planned

If you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer you should be treated by a specialist gynaecological cancer team called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). These teams are usually based in larger cancer centres, so you may have to travel for your treatment.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include different doctors, nurses and health care professionals. They will use national guidelines to plan the best treatment for you.

They will discuss your treatment options with you including their benefits, disadvantages and side effects.

You will be able to ask questions and make sure that you understand your treatment options. Once you fully understand your treatment your doctor will ask you to sign a consent form.

Some people find it helpful to have a second opinion. You can ask your specialist or GP to refer you, but this may sometimes delay the start of your treatment.

Multidisciplinary team

Women diagnosed with this type of cancer should be treated by a specialist gynaecological cancer team. These teams are based in larger cancer centres, so you may have to travel for your treatment. They will meet to discuss and decide the best treatment for you. They will consider your own wishes too.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a surgeon who specialises in gynaecological cancers (gynaecological oncologist)
  • a clinical oncologist (radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist doctor who specialises in gynaecological cancers)
  • a medical oncologist (chemotherapy specialist doctor who specialises in gynaecological cancer)
  • a gynae-oncology nurse specialist
  • a radiologist (a doctor who analyses x-rays and scans)
  • a pathologist who examines cancer cells under a microscope and advises on the type and extent of the cancer.

It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, radiographer, psychologist or counsellor.

After the team has met, your specialist will discuss your treatment options with you. You can ask questions about anything you don’t understand or are worried about. You should also be given a telephone number for your specialist nurse or key worker who you can contact if you have any questions when you get home.

You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

The benefits and disadvantages of treatment

Many people are frightened at the idea of having cancer treatments, particularly because of the side effects that can occur. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines. Treatment can be given for different reasons and the potential benefits will vary depending upon your individual situation.

If you have early or locally advanced cervical cancer, treatment is given with the aim of curing the cancer.

If the cancer is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body, treatment may only be able to control it, improving symptoms and quality of life. However, for some people in this situation the treatment will have no effect on the cancer and they will get the side effects without any of the benefit.

If you’ve been offered treatment that aims to cure the cancer, deciding whether to accept it may not be difficult. However, if a cure is not possible and the purpose of treatment is to control the cancer for a period of time, it may be more difficult to decide whether to go ahead.

Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss in detail with your doctor whether you wish to have treatment. If you choose not to have it, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care, with medicines to control any symptoms.

Getting a second opinion

Your multidisciplinary team (MDT) uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you. Even so, you may want another medical opinion. If you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion.

Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information. If you do go for a second opinion, it may be a good idea to take a relative or friend with you, and have a list of questions ready, so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.

We have more information about getting a second opinion.

Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you don't understand what you've been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it's not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It's a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it's important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don't have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don't have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.

Back to Who will be involved in my treatment decision?

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.