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What Happens During Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. You may take these drugs by mouth, as an injection into your body, or both ways.

Photo of intravenous drug bag

You generally receive chemotherapy every 3 to 4 weeks. This cycle allows normal cells to recover. Most patients have chemotherapy in an outpatient part of the hospital or at the doctor's office. If you are taking oral chemotherapy, you may take it at home. You may spend some time in the hospital, depending on your health and which drugs you receive.

You may also receive radiation therapy at the same time because low-dose chemotherapy may help radiation therapy work more effectively. In this case, you will receive the chemotherapy weekly.

Chemotherapy for cervical cancer usually involves a combination of drugs injected into an IV. These are some of the drugs most often used:

  • Platinol (cisplatin)

  • Taxol (paclitaxel)

  • Hycamtin (topotecan) 

  • Ifex (ifosfamide)

  • Fluorouracil (5-FU)

What to expect after chemotherapy

Side effects of chemotherapy for cervical cancer depend on the type and amount of drugs you're taking. They vary from person to person. Here is a list of possible side effects:

  • Appetite loss

  • Bruising

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue or less energy

  • Hair loss

  • Increased chance of infections

  • Mouth sores

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Except for hair loss, many of these side effects can be controlled. Tell your doctor or nurse about any changes or side effects that you notice. He or she can suggest things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Most of these side effects will go away or get better between treatments. You'll eventually stop having side effects after your treatments end.