Chemoradiotherapy for advanced cervical cancer

You might have chemoradiotherapy if cervical cancer comes back within the pelvis (lower part of the tummy between your hip bones) and you have not had radiotherapy to the area before.

What is chemoradiotherapy?

Chemoradiotherapy means having chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment together.

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream.

Radiotherapy uses radiation, usually x-rays, to destroy cancer cells.

The chemotherapy can make the cancer cells more sensitive to the radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy

You usually have treatment in the chemotherapy day unit or you might need to stay in hospital for a day or more.

The most common chemotherapy is cisplatin. You might have it before the radiotherapy starts. You continue to have it during the radiotherapy treatment.

You might have chemotherapy once a week throughout a 5 week radiotherapy course. Or you may have chemotherapy every 2 or 3 weeks. It depends on the chemotherapy drugs that you have.

You have cisplatin through a drip (an infusion). A nurse puts a small tube into one of your veins and connects it to the drip or you might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drug into a large vein, either in your chest or in your arm. The tube stays in while you’re having treatment, which might be for a few months.

Radiotherapy treatment

You have treatment in the hospital radiotherapy department.

Before you begin treatment, the radiotherapy team work out how much radiation you need. They divide it into a number of smaller treatments. They call each treatment a fraction. At your planning appointment the radiographers might make pen marks or small tattoos on your skin in the treatment area.

Your treatment starts a few days or up to 3 weeks after the planning session. You have radiotherapy from an external machine as a daily treatment, five days a week for several weeks.

Internal radiotherapy

After the chemoradiotherapy you usually have internal radiotherapy. This means giving radiotherapy from inside the body and is also called brachytherapy.

Side effects

Chemoradiotherapy can cause side effects during the treatment and afterwards.

Last reviewed: 
06 May 2020
Next review due: 
06 May 2023
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    VT DeVita , TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
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    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
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    JD Wright
    UpToDate website, accessed May 2020

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