Metastatic cervical cancer is cervical cancer that has spread, not just to the nearby organs like the bladder and rectum, but also to other organs further away from the pelvis. Metastatic cervical cancer is also referred to as secondary cancer. It is cervical cancer that has reached stage 4B. Cervical cancer in this stage can spread to the lungs, bones, liver.
Some of the factors that determine the type of treatment a cancer patient needs, are:
- The type of cancer,
- The stage of the cancer, and
- Where the cancer is located.
Cervical cancer is no exception when it comes to these factors.
Cervical Cancer Stages
Staging of all cancers, not just cervical cancer, is very important in helping the doctor or specialist decide on which treatment to use. There are 4 major stages into which cervical cancer can be categorised:
- Stage 1: This stage is further categorised into stage 1A (where the cancer is only in the cervix) and 1B (where the area of the cervix affected by the cancer is much bigger than in stage1A, but the cancer is still confined to the cervix).
- Stage 2: In stage 2A the cancer has spread into the vagina, and in 2B, the cancer has also spread to other tissues around the cervix.
- Stage 3: In 3A, the cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina while in 3B, it has spread into the pelvic wall and/or might be affecting the kidneys by blocking the ureters.
- Stage 4: In 4A the cancer has spread to an organ near the cervix such as the bladder and rectum, and in 4B the cancer has spread to organs far away from the cervix like the liver and lungs.
Treatments for Metastatic Cervical Cancer
It can be scary when you receive the news that you have cervical cancer and even more frustrating to hear that the cancer has metastasized meaning that it has spread further away from the cervix into other parts of the body. However, there are some treatment options that can help to control the symptoms of the cancer and improve the patient’s quality of life. These treatments are as follows:
This can be done to surgically remove cancer tumours that have formed in newly affected areas of the body, whether in the pelvic area or other parts of the body.
- Radiation therapy
Radiation involves directing high energy beams to the affected area to kill cancer cells and thereby slowing down the growth of the cancer cells and relieving its symptoms.
This treatment involves using anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells and, as in the case of radiation therapy, it is done to slow down the growth of the cancer and relieve its symptoms.
- Clinical Trial: Patients can also agree to be part of clinical trials for cervical cancer treatment which involves using new anticancer drugs or drug combinations to treat the cancer. Clinical trials, also known as clinical studies, are basically done to test how well new medical approaches work in patients and apart from treatment, they can also focus on new methods of screening, diagnosing and preventing diseases like cancer.
- Palliative Care: Quality of life can also be improved for patients with metastatic cervical cancer by offering palliative care. Palliative care involves relieving a patient’s symptoms and the side effects caused by the cancer and its treatment. Palliative care is at times referred to as supportive care. This care works best when it is started early, and at times, it is offered concurrently with the normal cancer treatment. The form of palliative care varies from one patient to the other and may focus on medication, nutritional changes, motivational support and relaxation techniques, among other therapies.
It is important to understand what the treatment you are getting is aimed at, and the side affects you may get from it, because in some cases, palliative treatments can be similar to those used to eliminate cancer, such as chemotherapy.
In treating metastatic cervical cancer, the treatment is not aimed at curing the cancer but at relieving the symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life. It is therefore very crucial to talk to your doctor about your treatment even before starting it. That way, you are able to make an informed decision.