About chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer

You are most likely to have chemoradiotherapy treatment if your cervical cancer is a stage 1B2 or bigger, up to a stage 4A.

You might also have this treatment if you have had surgery and cancer cells were found in the lymph nodes close to the cervix.

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.

Giving these treatments together can lower the risk of the cancer coming back.


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.

  • Cervical cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    C Marth and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2017. Volume 28, Supplement 4

  • Reducing uncertainties about the effects of chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer: individual patient data meta-analysis
    Chemoradiotherapy for Cervical Cancer Meta-analysis Collaboration (CCCMAC)
    Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010. Issue 1

  • Surgery or chemoradiotherapy for stage IB2 cervical cancer

    Nama V, Angelopoulos G and others

    Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, October 2018

Last reviewed: 
30 Mar 2020
Next review due: 
30 Mar 2023

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