Cervical cancer specialists with Duke’s nationally ranked cancer program detect and treat cervical cancer, which is typically caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Our gynecologic oncologists are specialists in treating women with cancers that affect their reproductive system. We understand the impact cervical cancer has on your fertility, sexual function, psychological health and your family. Our doctors draw upon the latest research findings and our ongoing clinical trials to ensure you receive the best treatment for your condition.
Gynecologic experts in cervical cancer
If you have cervical cancer, having a gynecologic oncologist leading your team ensures you receive the best care. Our gynecologic oncologists in Durham and Raleigh work with women with gynecologic cancers every day. We use our training and experience to tailor chemotherapy and surgical treatments to minimize cancer’s impact on your fertility and sexuality. We have dedicated radiation oncology expertise for treating cervical cancer. If surgery is needed, we are trained and experienced in performing complex procedures on the reproductive system.
If you have been diagnosed with the type of HPV that increases your risk for cervical cancer, or your Pap test results suggest precancerous or cancerous cells, we work closely with you to look for suspicious changes in the cervix so treatment can be started at the earliest possible stage. Our overarching goal is to detect cervical cancer early, tailor your treatment, and increase your chances for a positive and long-term outcome.
Choose Duke for your cervical cancer treatment because we offer:
- Nationally ranked cancer program. We are consistently ranked among the best cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Center, our cervical cancer team is recognized for exploring new treatment opportunities through ongoing clinical trials. We offer you the latest research discoveries before they are available elsewhere.
- Access to our clinical trials. You may be eligible to participate in our ongoing clinical trials, which explore new therapies including chemotherapy drugs that slow or kill cancer cells, immunotherapy drugs that boost your body’s ability to fight cancer, and biologic therapies that block the systems that allow cancer to grow in your body.
- Specialists in female reproductive system cancers. Studies show significant survival benefits exist when women with cervical cancer are cared for by gynecologic oncologists.
- Fertility services for cancer survivors. If you are concerned about the impact of chemotherapy and/or radiation on your fertility, experts at the Duke Fertility Center work closely with you to discuss fertility preservation treatments, which may include egg freezing, tissue banking, and experimental options that are available through our ongoing clinical trials.
- Convenient appointments. We schedule your appointments quickly, coordinate your schedule with your cervical cancer team, and work with you to develop the best treatment plan.
- Comfortable surroundings. Our new Duke Cancer Center features spacious waiting areas, a Quiet Room, large infusion rooms, and a rooftop garden area where patients — based on their treatment regimen — can receive chemotherapy outdoors.
- Support services for the whole person. Our comprehensive support services range from helping patients minimize the side effects of treatment, to coping with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment.
Your gynecologic oncologist takes many factors into consideration — your age and health, your fertility concerns, the size and stage of your cervical cancer, and whether it has spread to other organs — when determining the right treatment approach for you.
- Cryosurgery. Freezes and kills tumor cells to stop cancer growth.
- Laser surgery. High-energy beams kill tumor cells and stop cancer growth.
- Trachelectomy. When very small tumors are present, your surgeon may remove your cervix and part of your vagina, but leave your uterus intact to preserve your fertility.
- Radical hysterectomy. Removes the cervix and uterus when cervical cancer has spread. Robot-assisted radical hysterectomies allow surgeons to be more precise in their movement, and may be performed through small incisions in your abdomen. As a result, you may have less scarring, less postoperative pain, and faster recovery.
- Chemotherapy. Administered orally or intravenously, it may be recommended after surgery to slow cancer cells or kill cancer growth. Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation oncology treatments.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Highly precise, computer-controlled machine delivers small doses of high-energy radiation at varying intensities to kill cancer cells. The radiation beams enter the body at various angles and target the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
- Internal and external radiation treatments. External beams deliver radiation to areas affected by your cervical cancer. We may also implant radiation seeds or capsules near the tumor to kill cancer cells and halt cancer growth.
- Pelvic exteneration. While rare, it may be performed in combination with a radical hysterectomy to remove affected organs or tissues, such as the bladder, vagina, rectum and part of the colon.
If your primary care or OB-GYN doctor finds a positive result on your Pap test, or if you've been diagnosed with certain types of HPV, the following tests may be performed to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Many are performed in a doctor’s office. Some require a surgical procedure.
Performed to distinguish the type of tumor and direct treatment decisions.
A specially designed microscope looks for abnormal tissue in the cervix and surrounding vaginal area.
Transvaginal ultrasound, X-ray, CT, PET and MRI scans may be used to create high-quality images of your cervix and surrounding organs. Used to pinpoint the location of your tumor and whether it has spread.
Removes tissue sample for examination under a microscope to look for cancerous or precancerous cells. A biopsy may be performed through a colposcopy exam, or may require a more in-depth look at the cervical tissue. Biopsy options for cervical cancer include:
- Endocervical curettage. A small sample of tissue is scraped from the opening of the cervix using a tool called a curette.
- LEEP (Loop electro-surgical excision procedure). A small wire heated with high-frequency energy is used to remove tissue samples for look for pre-cancerous cells and invasive cancer.
- Cone biopsy. Removes a larger, cone-shaped amount of tissue to determine if pre-cancerous cells are present under the surface of the cervix. The cone biopsy may be performed using the LEEP procedure, a laser, or a small scalpel. It may be used to identify invasive cancer.