About 1,300 women with some form of gynecologic cancer come to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center each year, including about 200 new patients with cervical cancer.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering has a multidisciplinary team approach to screening, counseling, and treatment for women with cervical cancer. Although each of our patients has a primary doctor who coordinates her care, all patients — regardless of the type of treatment they receive — are cared for by a team of experts.
The team (known as the Gynecologic Disease Management Team) includes:
- surgical oncologists
- medical oncologists
- radiation oncologists
- general gynecologists
- social workers
- a psychologist
Members of the team meet weekly to review and discuss each patient's case and treatment plan. They are joined by other specialists, including those who provide psychosocial support, who work to meet the nonmedical needs of both patients and their caregivers. Our team also offers counseling for women who have concerns regarding their sexual health and women experiencing symptoms of early menopause.
The primary forms of treatment for cervical cancer are surgery and/or combined radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Our team approach to treatment gives each patient the benefit of our expertise and skill in treating every aspect of cervical cancer.
Visit PubMed for our journal articles from our cervical cancer experts
We believe that our most significant impact occurs when we can apply our expertise early in the cancer treatment program. Women who choose to have surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering benefit from the experience of our surgical staff. For patients whose cancer is more advanced, our researchers are working to develop better chemotherapy agents, including novel investigational drugs available only through clinical trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. We also have experts devoted to the detection and management of rarer cervical cancers.
In addition, we are committed to clinical research that will improve both survival and quality of life for women with cervical cancer.
Our Surgical Expertise
For women diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer, our surgeons have been leaders in the adoption of less invasive techniques such as laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, a thin, lighted tube with a video camera at its tip (called a laparoscope) is inserted through a tiny incision in the abdominal wall. The surgeon can operate through tiny surgical “ports” using specially designed surgical instruments. By using this approach, a patient will experience fewer complications, shorter hospital stays, and lower costs compared to traditional, open abdominal surgery.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Memorial Sloan-Kettering gynecologic surgeons, led by Nadeem Abu-Rustum, developed a simple technique to identify and remove the most important lymph nodes during surgery for early-stage endometrial or cervical cancers.
In conjunction with our team of radiologists, Memorial Sloan-Kettering surgeons are evaluating a biopsy performed during surgery called sentinel lymph node biopsy. The sentinel node is the first to which cancer is likely to spread from a primary tumor. If that node is free of cancer cells, it may eliminate the need to remove all of the pelvic lymph nodes for analysis.
Sentinel node mapping may help prevent the unnecessary removal of all the lymph nodes in some women, leaving these nodes in place to continue their normal functions of draining fluids and fighting infection. For more information, visit our Treatment section.
Use of Robotics for Surgery
Memorial Sloan-Kettering was the first cancer hospital to acquire a state-of-the-art robotic da Vinci™ Surgical System for minimally invasive cancer surgery. This technology offers the surgeon a number of significant advantages, among them an enhanced view of the operating field and a greater range of motion. Our gynecologic surgeons use the robot to perform minimally invasive procedures for women with cervical cancer.
The surgical removal of the uterus (a procedure known as hysterectomy) has been the traditional method used to treat cervical cancer. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is one of the only hospitals on the East Coast performing a type of surgery that has the potential to preserve a woman's ability to bear children even after she has been diagnosed with early invasive cervical cancer.
Called radical trachelectomy, which means the surgical removal of the cervix, this approach offers an alternative to radical hysterectomy. This procedure is performed on patients whose tumor is confined to the cervix, so doctors are able to leave a small portion of the cervix in place and spare the womb (the upper part of the uterus known as the fundus). Not until the surgery is underway can the surgeon decide if a radical trachelectomy is a viable treatment option, depending upon how deeply into the cervical tissue the cancer has spread.
Surgery for Recurrent Cervical Cancer
For women needing additional surgery for advanced and recurrent cervical cancer, we also have a multispecialty group of surgeons known as the Pelvic Reconstruction Group that is dedicated to optimizing the surgical removal of cancer while maintaining function. Visit the Treatment section of this cancer information overview for more information on these options.
For women diagnosed with cancer that has spread beyond the cervix, combination treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy has proven to be very effective. Our clinician-researchers continue to search for newer treatments to extend the benefits of this regimen to a greater number of our patients.
We have clinical experience in combination chemotherapy and radiation therapy (known as combined modality therapy), including a type of internal radiation known as high-dose brachytherapy, in which radioactive material is placed directly into or near a tumor. Brachytherapy may be used in conjunction with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), one of the most advanced and precise radiation treatment techniques. IMRT shapes radiation beams to the contours of the tumor, which helps to reduce the dosage of radiation to healthy tissues and possibly the side effects of treatment.
For women with advanced cervical cancer, chemotherapy is the treatment of choice. We continue to be actively involved in new drug development and clinical trials aimed at improving the treatment options for these patients. In addition, we rely on a multidisciplinary approach to determine the best way to care for women with advanced disease in order to improve or maintain quality of life.
Focus on the Patient
We believe that treating the whole person, not just the disease, is the best approach for patients and family members. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, we offer a broad range of emotional support programs designed to help patients and family members cope with the range of issues related to life during and after cancer treatment.
For more information about the services we offer, please visit the Survivorship & Support section of this overview.