Cervical cancer recurrence can sometimes develop after the completion of a woman’s initial treatment. The goal of treatment is to eliminate all of the cancer, but sometimes cancer cells go undetected, or new cancer cells develop. As a result, cancer can potentially return to the cervix or the surrounding area, or to another part of the body. Therefore, a physician will generally monitor a cervical cancer survivor closely through regular follow-up appointments.
To look for signs of cervical cancer recurrence, a physician will usually:
- Ask questions about any changes, symptoms or problems that a patient might be experiencing
- Perform a pelvic examination
- Obtain a Pap smear (even if a woman’s cervix was previously removed, cells can be sampled from the upper portion of her vagina, or vaginal cuff)
- Obtain further lab and/or imaging tests, if necessary
"Pelvic exenteration is one of the major and most complex surgeries that our expert gynecologic oncologists perform most frequently in the state of Florida. This major undertaking is planned well in advanced with a multispecialty team."- Mian Shahzad, MD, PhD
If a cervical cancer recurrence is detected, the recommended course of treatment is usually determined based on a combination of several factors, including the patient’s initial treatment, the location of the relapse and the patient’s overall health. For example, if a woman’s cervix was previously removed and the cancer returns to a small, nearby area that cannot be operated on, radiation treatment may be recommended. However, if a patient has already received radiation treatment in her pelvis, radiation therapy cannot be re-administered to the same area of her body in most cases. Cervical cancer recurrence within the pelvis is sometimes treated with pelvic exenteration surgery if cancer is not detected elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy may also be administered as supportive therapy to alleviate symptoms and improve a patient’s quality of life and in advanced cases where surgery is not an option.
Any cervical cancer patient who would like to follow up with an experienced gynecologic oncologist is encouraged to consult with the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center – no referral is needed to do so. Remember, early cervical cancer detection is key for successful treatment. At Moffitt, our compassionate cervical cancer team understands that a survivor might be worried about the potential return of her cancer. As a recognized leader in the detection and treatment of all forms of cancer, Moffitt offers patients the latest diagnostic techniques as well as access to new and innovative therapies that are available through clinical trials.
Medically reviewed by Mian Shahzad, MD, PhD, gynecologic oncologist.