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The cervix is the opening that connects the vagina with the uterus. Cervical cancer can be either:
- Limited, noninvasive cervical cancer. The cancer affects only the outside layer of the cervix
- Invasive cervical cancer. The cancer is affecting deeper layers of the cervix.
Minimally invasive procedures such as hysteroscopy can be used to both diagnose and treat cervical cancer.
Treating Limited, Noninvasive Cervical Cancer
Noninvasive cervical cancer is usually treated by removing the abnormal cells. This can be done in a number of ways. Depending on a woman's individual situation, minimally invasive techniques can be used for all of them:
- Biopsy. The section of cervical tissue where the abnormality has been found is removed.
- Laser surgery. A narrow bean of intense light is used to kill cancerous and pre-cancerous cells.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure. A wire loop with an electrical current is used like a scalpel to remove cancerous or precancerous cells from the cervix.
- Cyrosurgery. This kills the abnormal cells by freezing them.
- Hysterectomy. This is the most intensive approach. It removes the uterus entirely. This is only done in selected cases where noninvasive cervical cancer is present.
Treating Invasive Cervical Cancer
Invasive cervical cancer is treated in several ways depending on the stage of the cancer, the woman's general health and her preferences about treatment. The Center for Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery uses laparoscopy, hysteroscopy or both, whenever possible.
Treatment options for invasive cervical cancer include:
- Hysterectomy. Removing only the uterus is usually possible only when invasive cervical cancer is at its earliest stage. More advanced cancer requires removal of the uterus, a portion of the vagina and nearby lymph nodes.
- Radiation. Today's advanced techniques make it possible to precisely beam high-powered energy at the cancer. It can be used by itself if the cancer is discovered early. Often, radiation is combined with surgery, chemotherapy or both.
- Chemotherapy. This uses strong drugs to kill cancer cells. It also can be combined with radiation, surgery or both.