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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Gynaecological Oncology MDTCervical cancer is cancer of the cervix and develops through pre-cancerous stages over many years. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system, which also includes the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

The cervical cancer experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital use several methods to confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of your disease. They have experience with early-stage as well as complex cancer; have access to advanced diagnostic tools and a wide range of treatments, including clinical trials. At the same time, our supportive clinicians help you manage side effects to support your quality of life. Explore this section to learn more about cervical cancer, its side effects and your treatment options.

About cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

According to the Cancer Council of Australia, about 800 women in Australia are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. It accounts for about 2 out of 100 of all cancers diagnosed in women and is more common in women over 40, but it can occur at any age. The good news is that cases of cervical cancer have declined since the implementation of a national screening program in the 1990s.

Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer. When exposed to HPV, a woman's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.

Cervical cancer may require various treatment approaches, depending on the type of cells involved and whether it has spread beyond the cervix. Treatment options depend on an accurate diagnosis, making it important to work with experienced cancer sub-specialists who employ state-of-the-art technology.

You can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by having 5-yearly screening tests and receiving the vaccine that protects against HPV infection (Gardisil).

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Signs and symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer include:

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have an unpleasant odour
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

If you experience any of these symptoms or have concerns, please see your general practitioner (GP).

How is cervical cancer diagnosed?

An abnormal pap smear can be the first indication of cancerous changes in the cervix and may result in your general practitioner referring you to on the gynaecological specialists at the San. These specialists will examine the cervix, take a biopsy of cervical tissue and perform other tests to determine the presence and extent of the cancer.

Some of these other tests may include a chest x-ray, CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis, and/or an MRI scan if there is reason to believe that the cancer has spread beyond the cervix to other parts of the body.

Once a diagnosis has been made, your integrated team of cervical cancer experts will use these imaging and laboratory tests to determine the stage or extent of the cancer which will largely influence the recommended treatment approach.

What are my treatment options for cervical cancer?

The most common treatment for cervical cancer is surgery and/or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. When cervical cancer has spread beyond the cervix, targeted therapy may also be used.

Your MDT will meet to discuss your diagnosis and tailor your treatment plan based on the following:

  • The results of your tests
  • The location of the cancer and whether it has spread
  • Your age and general health
  • Whether you would like to have children in the future

Sydney Adventist Hospital has highly skilled surgeons trained in minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic and robotic) who treat cervical cancer patients and leading edge facilities and specialists in radiation therapy and chemotherapy if these treatments are recommended.

Resources and useful cervical cancer links
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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services