Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer for women around the world. More than 12,000 women in the United States alone are diagnosed with it each year, and 4,000 will die from it. As grim as those numbers are, however, the prognosis has greatly improved for those diagnosed with it.
In fact, over the last 40 years, the death rate from cervical cancer has dropped by more than 50 percent. According to the American Cancer Society, that’s largely due to early detection from Pap smears, however, there are also plenty of other new cervical cancer treatment methods and developments that offer hope to those fighting it.
Here are some of them:
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SNL) requires fewer lymph nodes to be removed during surgery for cervical cancer than traditional methods by using a blue dye to identify those most likely to be cancerous. According the American Cancer Association it’s not widely used at this time, but shows promise, particularly for early-stage cervical cancer.
While HPV vaccines provide protection from the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer, there are also trials investigating vaccines that may help wipe out already existing HPV infections. Others show promise in providing immunity to parts of the virus that will destroy or stop cancer cells from growing.
Hyperthermia basically heats the area of the cancerous cells to a temperature high enough to kill cancer cells. Studies have shown that its use combined with radiotherapy can improve pelvic control and overall cervical cancer survival rates.
While chemotherapy affects all of a body’s cells, targeted therapies work specifically to combat cancerous cells. Drugs such a s bevacizumab (Avastin) have shown promise in blocking the spread of cervical cancer cells and in making chemotherapy work better.
Adoptive Cell Therapy
A type of immunotherapy, T cell transfer removes T cells from a cervical cancer patient then genetically modifies or treats them with chemicals before placing them back in their body, with a goal of increasing their anti-cancer response. Studies are currently underway to evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy.
An easy and cost-effective treatment when pre-cancerous cells are found, cervical peeling uses an acid (like the one used for cosmetic skin peels) to essentially peel away the pre-cancerous cells. In one study, 82 percent of patients had a complete remission after just one treatment.
The standard recommended treatment for advanced cervical cancer includes a combination of external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT), chemotherapy and brachytherapy (where radioactive seeds are implanted into the tumor), which studies have shown effective in treating cervical cancer. However, a recent study has shown that more than half of women aren’t receiving all three parts of the therapy. In particular, there has been a decline in the use of brachytherapy, which concerns researchers. So while it’s not a new therapy, it was one to note and bring up when discussing treatment plans.
Beyond these treatments, there are a host of other cervical cancer clinical trials patients can explore. The National Cancer Institute provides a list of locations, eligibility and other information to help decide if one is right for you or a loved one.