Having chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer

Chemoradiotherapy means having chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment together.

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. These drugs are also called cytotoxic drugs Open a glossary item. The drugs circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream.

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

When you have chemoradiotherapy

You are most likely to have chemoradiotherapy treatment if your cervical cancer is:

  • stage 1B2 or bigger, up to a stage 4A
  • you have had surgery, and cancer cells were found in the lymph nodes close to the cervix

How you have chemoradiotherapy

Chemotherapy before having chemoradiotherapy

Before having chemoradiotherapy, you might have weekly chemotherapy with carboplatin and paclitaxel over 6 weeks.

Chemotherapy as part of chemoradiotherapy

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. 

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.


You have daily external radiotherapy for 5 days every week for around 5 weeks. You also have a boost of internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy Open a glossary item) at the end of your course.

Where you have chemoradiotherapy


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


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 several smaller treatments. They call each treatment a fraction. This is called radiotherapy planning.

At your planning appointment the radiographers might make pen marks or small tattoos on your skin in the treatment area.

After your planning session

If you have palliative Open a glossary item chemoradiotherapy, your treatment starts a few days after the planning session. Otherwise, treatment starts up to 3 weeks after the planning session.

Having treatment

You have radiotherapy from an external machine as a daily treatment, five days a week for several weeks. You lie under a large machine to have radiotherapy.

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 Guidelines: Recommendations for Practice (May 2020)

    British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS)

    Accessed September 2023

  • Surgery or chemoradiotherapy for stage IB2 cervical cancer

    V Nama and others

    Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12 October 2018

  • Age as a potential predictor of acute side effects during chemoradiotherapy in primary cervical cancer patients

    A Holmqvist and others

    BMC Cancer, April 2022. Volume 22, Issue 371

Last reviewed: 
03 Nov 2023
Next review due: 
03 Nov 2026

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