Cervical Cancer (cont.)
Precancerous Lesions Medical Treatment
Treatment for precancerous lesions differs from that of invasive cancer.
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.
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