cervical cancer

meet Leonila

In this heartfelt video, Leonila Vega and her partner Brad talk about her initial visit to Aurora. She also talks about her decision to enter into the phase 3 cervical cancer clinical trial Aurora was conducting in hopes to get a chance to do the things in life she still wants to do.
View all Videos


Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. It’s caused by a persistent infection of the human papilloma virus (HPV). With early detection, such as having regular Pap smears, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Getting the HPV vaccination and avoiding unprotected sex can help prevent cervical cancer.


Most women have no symptoms from the disease at its early stages. Later symptoms may include: 

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pain in the lower belly or pelvis
  • Pain during sex


Getting regular Pap smears (cervical cytology) every 3 years beginning at age 21 and adding HPV DNA testing every 5 years at age 30 are extremely effective screening strategies. If the screenings show any abnormalities, your doctor may recommend one of these tests:

  • Colposcopy: A special viewing scope with magnifying lenses is used to examine the surface of your cervix
  • Colposcopic biopsy: While viewing your cervix with a colposcope, a tiny portion of abnormal tissue is removed from the surface of the cervix. The cells are then examined under a microscope.
  • Endocervical curettage: This procedure uses an instrument to scrape cells from the canal joining the cervix and uterus for further testing.
  • Cone biopsy: A cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from your cervix. Sometimes a cone biopsy also serves as a treatment to remove pre-cancers or early cancers.

There are also a number of tests used to see if cervical cancer has spread. These may include:

  • Intravenous urography (intravenous pyelography, or IVP)
  • Cystoscopy or proctoscopy checks to see if cancer has spread to the urethra or bladder or rectum. 
  • CT (computed tomography scan) not only confirms the presence of a tumor, but can show its precise location, size and whether it’s spread to nearby tissue.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may also be used to find out whether a tumor is benign or malignant.
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scan - a specific dye injected into your vein highlights cancer cells growing anywhere in the body.

treatment options

Your treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis, your general health and whether you have or want to have children. Your doctor will discuss the course of treatment that is right for your needs.

Generally, cervical cancer treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Surgery may be followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to kill additional cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation is used to shrink your tumor before surgery.

Surgical options to treat cervical cancer include:

  • Cryosurgery: Abnormal cells are killed by freezing them with a cold metal probe. 
  • Laser surgery: Abnormal cells are destroyed with heat from a focused beam of energy. 
  • Conization: Removing a cone-shaped portion of tissue may be the only treatment necessary. Conization (or a cone biopsy) is usually performed with either the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), also called a large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ), or with a surgical scalpel or laser in a “cold knife” procedure. 
  • Vaginal hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus): A small incision is made at the top of the vagina to remove the uterus and sometimes other reproductive organs. 
  • Open surgery: An incision in your abdomen allows either a simple hysterectomy, in which your uterus and cervix are removed; a total hysterectomy, in which your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed; or a radical hysterectomy, in which your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries and tissue around the uterus and cervix are removed. 
  • Lymphadenectomy: Your surgeon will remove some of the lymph nodes in your pelvis and abdomen and have them examined under a microscope to see if the cancer has spread.
  • Pelvic exenteration: This surgery is only used if cancer returns after your initial treatment. It’s extensive surgery to remove the uterus, cervix, lymph nodes, bladder, vagina, rectum and/or part of the colon. Trachelectomy: This newer procedure maintains your ability to have children. In it, your cervix, upper portion of your vagina and nearby lymph nodes are removed. A "purse-string stitch" replaces the cervical opening. 
  • Robotic surgery: This minimally invasive procedure is similar to a laparoscopy but uses robotic precision coupled with magnified views and the surgeon's skills to perform a hysterectomy.

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • External beam radiation uses a special machine to send beams of high-energy X-rays through your skin to target and kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used by itself or with surgery. 
  • Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses small amounts of radioactive material inserted into or around the cancer, typically through your vagina. 
  • Chemotherapy (systemic anti-cancer) drugs can be given by mouth or injected through a vein. They affect your whole body to help control the spread of cancer to other organs.

treating your cancer, caring for you.

Our musculoskeletal oncology program is located at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee. We treat all kinds of musculoskeletal cancer, including adult and pediatric bone and soft-tissue tumors and metastatic bone disease.

Team members include an orthopedic surgical oncologist, radiologist, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, plastic surgeons and a occupational therapist. In addition to top-notch medical care, Aurora offers patients:

Find aCancer Specialist

Our search tool lets you find the doctor who's right for you.

Get a Second Opinion

Knowing all your options can make life's toughest decisions a little easier. 

Your LifeYour Health

myAurora makes it easy to manage your care online, anytime.