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Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer

If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer , chemotherapy may be part of your treatment plan. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel to the tumor in order to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy also kills normal cells, though. The advantage is that the cancer cells are more sensitive to the drugs being used.

Chemotherapy may be given either alone or along with radiation therapy . When given alone, it is given in a higher dose designed to kill off cancer cells. When given along with radiation therapy, it is delivered at a lower dose and is designed to make the cancer more sensitive to the radiation.

A wide variety of chemotherapy drugs may be used, such as:

  • Cisplatin
  • Carboplatin
  • Taxol
  • Paclitaxel
  • 5FU
  • Vinblastine
  • Bevacizumab
  • Adriamycin

Chemotherapy is usually given by vein, but some forms can be given by mouth. Your oncologist will tell you how many cycles or courses of chemotherapy are best for you. Usually there are between 4-6 cycles of chemotherapy given when the chemotherapy is delivered on its own, and up to 10 cycles of chemotherapy when the drugs are given along with the radiation therapy.

The side effects and amount of time required in the doctor’s office depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, as well as how many cycles you receive and how often. The most common side effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Hair loss
  • Increased frequency and urgency of bowel and bladder function
  • Bleeding problems
  • Infection
  • Soreness of mouth and gums
  • Diarrhea

When chemotherapy is given at a lower dose, these side effects are less common. But most people feel very fatigued. A variety of drugs is available to manage side effects, including nausea and fatigue that results from anemia.

Long-term side effects may also occur. The chemotherapy drug adriamycin has been associated with damage to the heart muscle. Some very rare cases of leukemia may also result from treatment with chemotherapy drugs.

Revision Information

  • About chemotherapy for cervical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed September 4, 2012.

  • Chemotherapy for cervical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated March 14, 2012. Accessed September 4, 2012.

  • Cervical cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 7, 2013. Accessed January 3, 2014.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Parkridge Health System does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.