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Cervical Cancer (cont.)

Precancerous Lesions Medical Treatment

Treatment for precancerous lesions differs from that of invasive cancer.

Precancerous lesions

Choice of treatment for a precancerous lesion of the cervix depends on a number of factors. These factors include whether the lesion is low or high grade, whether a woman wants to have children in the future, her age and general health, and her preference and that of her health care professional.

  • If a woman has a low-grade lesion, she may not need further treatment, especially if the abnormal area was completely removed during biopsy. She should have regular Pap smears and pelvic exams.
  • When a precancerous lesion requires treatment, cryosurgery (freezing), cauterization (burning, also called diathermy), or laser surgery may be used to destroy the abnormal area without harming nearby healthy tissue.
  • Abnormal tissue also can be removed by LEEP or conization.
  • Treatment for precancerous lesions may cause cramping or other pain, bleeding, or a watery vaginal discharge.

In some cases, a woman may choose to have a hysterectomy for precancerous changes, particularly if abnormal cells are found inside the opening of the cervix. This surgery is more likely to be done if a woman does not plan to have children in the future.

Diagnostic procedures, such as LEEP and cone biopsy, sometimes may be used as treatments as well.

  • Both of these procedures involve taking away some of the cervical tissue for evaluation.
  • If that evaluation finds that there were indeed abnormal cells but that those abnormal cells did not extend as far as the level where the tissue was cut, only follow-up may be needed.
  • If there is uncertainty about whether all of the precancerous cells have been removed using a LEEP or cone biopsy procedure, then further treatments may be required.

Cryocautery may be used in some cases.

  • In this procedure, a steel instrument is cooled to subzero temperatures by immersion in liquid nitrogen or a similar liquid.
  • This ultracooled instrument is then applied to the surface of the cervix.
  • The cells are frozen, and they eventually die and are sloughed off, to be replaced by new cervical cells.

Tissue may also be removed by laser ablation.

  • A laser beam is applied to either specific areas of cervical tissue or a whole layer of tissue at the surface of the cervix.
  • The laser destroys these cells, leaving healthy cells in their place.

The success of cryocautery or laser ablation procedures is determined by a follow-up examination and Pap smear.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/28/2013

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Cervical Cancer »

Cervical cancer is the second most common malignancy in women worldwide, and it remains a leading cause of cancer-related death for women in developing countries.

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