For When Rare Cancer Gets Personal.
Cervical Cancer Care at Allegheny Health Network
First, some really good news. Cervical Care is rare, affecting only 8% of women diagnosed nationally with cancer. But sometimes what’s rare gets personal. Especially when you receive a cervical cancer diagnosis.
That’s when you can rely on the highly experienced team of doctors at the Cancer Institute at Allegheny Health Network. Using the most sophisticated screening and diagnostic technologies we provide you with a precise and accurate diagnosis.
It’s because we take even the rarest forms of cancer personally. So you can survive and thrive, achieving your personal best and ultimately living your life to the fullest.
Click on the links below to learn more about how Allegheny Health Network diagnoses and treats Cervical cancer. Throughout your treatment, your 24/7 Care Navigator can assist you and provide support should you have any questions or concerns.
Diagnosing Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer affects the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus. About two inches in length, it allows a baby to travel form the uterus to the vagina during childbirth. In the early stages of Cervical cancer there are usually no symptoms. As it progresses, women can experience abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during intercourse, pelvic pain, and/or heavy vaginal discharge.
At Allegheny Health Network, our doctors and clinicians use a variety of imaging and diagnostic resources to determine, the exact location, stage and type of cancer.
Our advanced services include:
- Internal pelvic examination. This office examination is where a doctor inspects your cervix and vagina and feels for any unusual lumps or changes in the area of your uterus or ovaries.
- Pap test. This diagnostic screening involves the microscopic and biochemical examination of secretions collected from your cervix. It is used to detect changes that may be cancer, or may lead to cancer and to show some noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.
- Dilation and curettage (D & C). This minor operation is where your cervix is opened so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a spoon-shaped instrument (curette) to obtain a tissue sample. The tissue is then examined under a microscope for abnormal cells.
- Transvaginal ultrasound. This procedure involves the insertion of a small instrument into your vagina. Using sound waves to create an image of your uterus and ovaries, physicians can inspect for abnormal conditions.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). This procedure uses an electric wire loop to obtain a piece of tissue so it can be examined under a microscope for abnormal cells.
- Cone biopsy. This procedure uses a tool to remove some tissue from the inside of your cervix to look for abnormal cells.
- Colposcopy. This test uses a specialized telescope to look more closely at an area of abnormal tissue on your cervix, vagina or vulva.
- Biopsy. This procedure involves removing a small amount of tissue to examine under a microscope for abnormal cells.
- CA-125 test. This is a tumor marker that is often found to be elevated in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. A test is used to monitor the progress of cancer treatment, however, it is not useful as a screening test because non-cancer problems can cause the marker to be elevated.
- Endocervical curettage (ECC). This procedure uses a narrow instrument called a curette to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal. It is a type of biopsy often completed along with colposcopy.
- Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan). This scan uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan is more detailed than general X-rays and shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This imaging technique uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of organs and structures within your body.
- Positron emission tomography (PET). This test injects radioactive-tagged glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream so a scanner can take images of your body. Tissues that use the glucose more than most normal tissues (such as tumors) can be detected show up on computer images.
Treating Cervical Cancer
After a cervical cancer diagnosis, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan that’s specific to your unique condition. Treating cancer successfully means getting rid of the cancer or getting it under control and keeping it from growing or spreading to other parts of the body. Because there are many different types of cancer cells, removing or getting rid of those cells can require a combination of treatments, including surgery and radiation therapy or some combination of both.
At Allegheny Health Network, our team of doctors and surgeons, and radiation and medical oncologists ensure that you have access to the highest quality of care available, including every possible treatment, procedure and clinical trial best suited for your situation.
Our extensive treatment options include:
Surgeons at the Cancer Institute utilize the latest techniques and technologies, and are among the most experienced in the country. Their expertise ensures that you receive the most comprehensive treatment plan with the best possible outcome.
Our advanced surgical treatments include:
- Laser surgery. Using a powerful beam of light, this surgery can be directed to specific parts of your body – without making a large incision – to destroy abnormal cells.
- Hysterectomy. This procedure involves the removal of your uterus. Depending on the situation, the uterus can be removed through an abdominal incision, through the vagina, or using laparoscopic techniques. Our doctors utilize the most advanced laparoscopic approaches, including the daVinci robot. Robotic surgery gives the surgeon an excellent view and allows for very fine, precise movements through small incisions in your abdomen.
- D&C hysteroscopy. This procedure enables your doctor to view your uterine canal through an endoscope. Often done to diagnose and treat abnormal uterine bleeding, your doctor may perform a dilation and curettage (D&C) at the same time, which involves scraping the uterus to remove substances.
- Laparoscopy. This surgical procedure creates small incisions used to operate on the abdomen.
- Radical surgery. This surgery involves removing an organ affected by cancer and other tissue within the same region that might also be affected
- Vulvectomy. This procedure involves removing all or part of your vulva, depending on the location of the cancer.
- Oophorectomy. This surgery involves removing one or both of your ovaries.
- Salpingo-oophorectomy. This procedure involves the removal of your fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Vaginectomy. This surgery removes all or of your vagina.
- Lymph-node staging. This surgical procedure involves the removal of tissue that might be affected by cancer. It is often done at the same time as radical surgery.
- Reconstructive surgery. This surgery involves the restoration of tissue that might be affected by cancer or anticancer therapy. It is most often done after a Vaginectomy.
- Risk-reducing surgery. Using performed with laparoscopy, this surgery s often performed by removing the fallopian tubes and ovaries for women with a high risk of cancer due to genetic factors or family history.
Treatment for your Cervical cancer may not require surgery. In many cases, Radiation Therapy is a minimally invasive procedure that’s used to shrink and destroy cancer cells. Along with your doctor, you can decide what course of treatment will be most beneficial as it relates to your overall diagnosis.
Here at the Cancer Institute we use state-of-the-art technology, including advanced computer software and imaging, to administer high–dose radiation beams directly to a tumor, minimizing your overall exposure.
As the only radiation oncology network accredited in western Pennsylvania by both the American Society for Radiation Oncology and American College of Radiology, you can feel assured knowing you are receiving the highest quality care available. This accreditation means that the Cancer Institute at Allegheny Health Network meets specific guidelines for patient safety, quality control, and efficiency of equipment.
The Cancer Institutes advanced radiation therapies include:
- Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT). The procedure uses frequent imaging to delivery precise and accurate radiation therapy. With this technology, physicians can image a tumor immediately before or during radiation treatment, making necessary adjustments as needed for precise tumor targeting and minimal harm to surrounding healthy tissue.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This therapy uses sophisticated computer technology to map the precise dimensions and density of cancerous tumors. Afterward, virtual treatment simulations are performed, and with minimal harm to surrounding healthy tissue, the radiation dose's shape and intensity is conformed to the simulation's exact parameters.
- Brachytherapy (high-dose and low-dose rate). This type of internal radiation that delivers specific doses of radiation from seeds or pellets implanted close to, or inside of, a tumor. This treatment is typically given as an outpatient over one to five days but can also be performed during surgery. It ensures the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT). This technique combines the precision of image guidance, the accuracy of IMRT, and motion management (4-D CT and Anzai respiratory gating) to deliver high doses of radiation in less than five treatments. This technique was pioneered at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute and has dramatically improved our ability to control tumors.
- Multimodality radiochemotherapy. This procedure combines chemotherapy with radiation so that both treatments act together to eliminate cancerous tumors. The chemotherapy sensitizes the cancer cells to the effects of radiation and also has a primary cell-killing effect on tumors.
The department of Medical Oncology specializes in diagnosing and caring for patients with a variety of medicines, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapy. Medicines are administered by mouth (oral) or by vein (intravenous) depending upon the treatment plan developed by your primary doctor or medical oncologist. Throughout your care, your doctor will coordinate your medication needs and your 24/7 Care Navigator may also be a part of this coordinated care effort.
The Cancer Institute’s advanced medical oncology therapies include:
- Chemotherapy. In the same way that antibiotics kill bacteria, chemotherapy directly kills cancer cells. Because of the potency of these drugs, and their ability to also damage normal cells, certain side effects can occur, including hair loss, nausea and lowered blood counts. Fortunately, your body’s normal cells repair themselves much better than cancer cells. Throughout your treatment, we carefully monitor your wellness and determine medication requirements that can reduce side effects and maximize the chemotherapy’s effectiveness.
- Targeted therapy. This therapy is less toxic, and in some cases, more effective than traditional chemotherapy. It works by attacking specific genes within the surrounding blood vessels that help cancer to grow.
- Immunotherapy. This form of biological therapy is designed to help your immune system do a better job of fighting your cancer. Working to enhance immune system function at the cellular level, immunotherapy utilizes cancer vaccines, genetically engineered human immune stimulatory molecules, and monoclonal antibodies (cloned antibodies from healthy cells used to support the immune system to help it fight cancer).
- Adjuvant therapy. This treatment is given after surgery to reduce the chance of residual microscopic cancer cells remaining in your body. It may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
- Neoadjuvant therapy. This treatment is given before surgery and may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. It may reduce the amount of tumor remaining at the time of surgery, allowing for a more conservative operation.
As with any cancer therapy or treatment, your medical oncologist or primary care doctor, in conjunction with your 24/7 Care Navigator, will with work with you to determine how best to treat your cancer.