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Cervical Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

Stages IB and IIA Cervical Cancer Treatment

Standard Treatment Options for Stages IB and IIA Cervical Cancer

Standard treatment options for stage IB and stage IIA cervical cancer include the following:

The size of the tumor is an important prognostic factor and should be carefully evaluated in choosing optimal therapy.[1]

Either radiation therapy or radical hysterectomy and bilateral lymph–node dissection results in cure rates of 85% to 90% for women with Féderation Internationale de Gynécologie et d’Obstétrique (FIGO) stages IA2 and IB1 small-volume disease. The choice of either treatment depends on patient factors and available local expertise. A randomized trial reported identical 5-year overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival rates when comparing radiation therapy with radical hysterectomy.[2]

In stage IB2, for tumors that expand the cervix more than 4 cm, the primary treatment should be concomitant chemotherapy and radiation therapy.[3]

Radiation therapy with concomitant chemotherapy

Concurrent, cisplatin-based chemotherapy with radiation therapy is the standard of care for women who require radiation therapy for treatment of cervical cancer.[4-10] Radiation therapy protocols for patients with cervical cancer have historically used dosing at two anatomical points, termed point A and point B, to standardize the doses received. Point A is defined as 2 cm from the external os, and 2 cm lateral, relative to the endocervical canal. Point B is also 2 cm from the external os, and 5 cm lateral from the patient midline, relative to the bony pelvis. In general, for smaller tumors, the curative-intent dose for point A is around 70 Gy, whereas for larger tumors, the point A dose may approach 90 Gy.

Evidence (radiation with concomitant chemotherapy):

  1. Three randomized, phase III trials have shown an OS advantage for cisplatin-based therapy given concurrently with radiation therapy,[4-7] while one trial that examined this regimen demonstrated no benefit.[8] The patient populations in these studies included women with FIGO stages IB2 to IVA cervical cancer treated with primary radiation therapy, and women with FIGO stages I to IIA disease who, at the time of primary surgery, were found to have poor prognostic factors, including metastatic disease in pelvic lymph nodes, parametrial disease, and positive surgical margins.
    • Although the positive trials vary somewhat in terms of the stage of disease, dose of radiation, and schedule of cisplatin and radiation, the trials demonstrate significant survival benefit for this combined approach.
    • The risk of death from cervical cancer was decreased by 30% to 50% with the use of concurrent chemoradiation therapy.
    • Other trials have confirmed these findings.[9,10]

Standard radiation therapy for cervical cancer includes brachytherapy after external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Although low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, typically with cesium Cs 137, has been the traditional approach, the use of high-dose rate (HDR) therapy, typically with iridium Ir 192, is rapidly increasing. HDR brachytherapy provides the advantage of eliminating radiation exposure to medical personnel, a shorter treatment time, patient convenience, and improved outpatient management. The American Brachytherapy Society has published guidelines for the use of LDR and HDR brachytherapy as components of cervical cancer treatment.[11,12]

Evidence (brachytherapy):

  1. In three randomized trials, HDR brachytherapy was comparable with LDR brachytherapy in terms of local-regional control and complication rates.[13-15][Level of evidence: 1iiDii]

    Surgery after radiation therapy may be indicated for some patients with tumors confined to the cervix that respond incompletely to radiation therapy or for patients whose vaginal anatomy precludes optimal brachytherapy.[16]

Pelvic node disease

The resection of macroscopically involved pelvic nodes may improve rates of local control with postoperative radiation therapy.[17] Patients who underwent extraperitoneal lymph–node sampling had fewer bowel complications than those who had transperitoneal lymph–node sampling.[18-20] Patients with close vaginal margins (<0.5 cm) may also benefit from pelvic radiation therapy.[21]

Radical hysterectomy and bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy with or without total pelvic radiation therapy plus chemotherapy

Radical hysterectomy and bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy may be considered for women with stages IB to IIA disease.

Evidence (radical hysterectomy and bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy with or without total pelvic radiation therapy plus chemotherapy):

  1. An Italian group randomly assigned 343 women with stage IB and IIA cervical cancer to surgery or radiation therapy. The radiation therapy included EBRT and one Cs-137 LDR insertion, with a total dose to point A from 70 to 90 Gy (median 76 Gy). Patients in the surgery arm underwent a class III radical hysterectomy, pelvic lymphadenectomy, and selective, para-aortic lymph–node dissection. Adjuvant radiation therapy was given to patients with high-risk pathologic features in the uterine specimen or positive lymph nodes. Adjuvant radiation therapy was EBRT to a total dose of 50.4 Gy over 5 to 6 weeks.[2][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
    • The primary outcome was OS at 5 years, with secondary measures of rate of recurrence and complications. With a median follow-up of 87 months, OS was the same in both groups at 83% (hazard ratio [HR], 1.2; confidence interval [CI], 0.7–2.3; P = .8).
    • Complications were highest among the patients who received adjuvant radiation after surgery.
    • In general, radical hysterectomy should be avoided in patients who are likely to require adjuvant therapy.
Adjuvant radiation therapy post surgery

Based on recurrence rates in previous clinical trials, two classes of recurrence risk have been defined. Patients with a combination of large tumor size, lymph vascular space invasion, and deep stromal invasion in the hysterectomy specimen are deemed to have intermediate-risk disease. These patients are candidates for adjuvant EBRT.[22] Patients whose pathology shows positive margins, positive parametria, or positive lymph nodes are high-risk candidates for recurrence.

Evidence (adjuvant radiation therapy post surgery):

  1. The Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) compared adjuvant radiation therapy alone with radiation therapy plus cisplatin plus fluorouracil (5-FU) after radical hysterectomy for patients in the high-risk group. Postoperative patients were eligible if their pathology showed any one of the following: positive parametria, positive margins, or positive lymph nodes. Patients in both arms received 49 Gy to the pelvis. Patients in the experimental arm also received cisplatin (70 mg/m2) and a 96-hour infusion of 5-FU (1000 mg/m2/d every 3 weeks for four cycles); the first two cycles were concurrent with the radiation therapy.[6][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
    • There were 268 patients evaluated with a primary endpoint of OS. The study results were reported early because of the positive results in other trials of concomitant cisplatin and radiation therapy.
    • Estimated 4-year survival was 81% for chemotherapy plus radiation therapy and 71% for radiation therapy alone (HR, 1.96; P = .007).
    • As expected, grade 4 toxicity was more common in the chemotherapy plus radiation therapy group, with hematologic toxicity predominating.

Radical surgery has been performed for small lesions, but the high incidence of pathologic factors leading to postoperative radiation with or without chemotherapy make primary concomitant chemotherapy and radiation a more common approach in patients with larger tumors. Radiation in the range of 50 Gy administered for 5 weeks plus chemotherapy with cisplatin with or without 5-FU should be considered in patients with a high risk of recurrence.

Para-aortic nodal disease

After surgical staging, patients found to have small-volume para-aortic nodal disease and controllable pelvic disease may be cured with pelvic and para-aortic radiation therapy.[23] Treatment of patients with unresected para-aortic nodes with extended-field radiation therapy and chemotherapy leads to long-term disease control in patients with low-volume (<2 cm) nodal disease below L3.[18] A single study (RTOG-7920) showed a survival advantage in patients with tumors larger than 4 cm who received radiation therapy to para-aortic nodes without histologic evidence of disease.[24] Toxic effects were greater with para-aortic radiation therapy than with pelvic radiation therapy alone but were mostly confined to patients with previous abdominopelvic surgery.[24] The use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) may minimize the effects to the small bowel usually associated with this treatment.[25]

Other Treatment Options

Radical trachelectomy

Patients with presumed early-stage disease who desire future fertility may be candidates for radical trachelectomy. In this procedure, the cervix and lateral parametrial tissues are removed, and the uterine body and ovaries are maintained. The patient selection differs somewhat between groups, however, general criteria include the following:

  • Desire for future pregnancy.
  • Age younger than 40 years.
  • Presumed stage IA2 to IB1 disease and a lesion size no greater than 2 cm.
  • Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging that shows a margin from the most distal edge of the tumor to the lower uterine segment.
  • Squamous, adenosquamous, or adenocarcinoma cell types.

Intraoperatively, the patient is assessed in a manner similar to a radical hysterectomy; the procedure is aborted if more advanced disease than expected is encountered. The margins of the specimen are also assessed at the time of surgery, and a radical hysterectomy is performed if inadequate margins are obtained.[26-30]

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Several groups have investigated the role of neoadjuvant chemotherapy to convert patients who are conventional candidates for chemoradiation into candidates for radical surgery.[31-35] Multiple regimens have been used; however, almost all utilize a platinum backbone. The largest randomized trial to date was reported in 2001, and its accrual was completed before the standard of care included the addition of cisplatin to radiation therapy.[36] As a result, the control arm utilized radiation therapy alone. Although there was an improvement in OS for the experimental arm, the results are not reflective of current practice. This study accrued patients with stages IB through IVA disease, but improvement in the experimental arm was only noted for participants with early stage disease (stages IB, IIA, or IIB).

EORTC-55994 (NCT00039338) randomly assigned patients with stages IB2, IIA2, and IIB cervical cancer to standard chemoradiation or neoadjuvant chemotherapy (with a cisplatin backbone for three cycles) followed by evaluation for surgery. With OS as the primary endpoint, this trial may delineate whether there is a role for neoadjuvant chemotherapy for this patient population.

Radiation therapy alone

External-beam pelvic radiation therapy combined with two or more intracavitary brachytherapy applications is appropriate therapy for patients with stage IA2 and IB1 lesions. For patients with stage IB2 and larger lesions, radiosensitizing chemotherapy is indicated. The role of radiosensitizing chemotherapy in patients with stage IA2 and IB1 lesions is untested. However, it may prove beneficial in certain cases.


IMRT is a radiation therapy technique that allows for conformal dosing of target anatomy while sparing neighboring tissue. Theoretically, this technique should decrease radiation therapy–related toxicity, but this could come at the cost of decreased efficacy if tissue is inappropriately excluded from the treatment field. Several institutions have reported their experience with IMRT for postoperative adjuvant therapy in patients with intermediate-risk and high-risk disease after radical surgery.[37-39] The Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) has closed accrual for a phase II trial (RTOG-0418 [NCT00331760]) that is evaluating the use of IMRT in patients with both cervical and endometrial cancers who require adjuvant radiation therapy.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage IB cervical cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Perez CA, Grigsby PW, Nene SM, et al.: Effect of tumor size on the prognosis of carcinoma of the uterine cervix treated with irradiation alone. Cancer 69 (11): 2796-806, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Landoni F, Maneo A, Colombo A, et al.: Randomised study of radical surgery versus radiotherapy for stage Ib-IIa cervical cancer. Lancet 350 (9077): 535-40, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Eifel PJ, Burke TW, Delclos L, et al.: Early stage I adenocarcinoma of the uterine cervix: treatment results in patients with tumors less than or equal to 4 cm in diameter. Gynecol Oncol 41 (3): 199-205, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Morris M, Eifel PJ, Lu J, et al.: Pelvic radiation with concurrent chemotherapy compared with pelvic and para-aortic radiation for high-risk cervical cancer. N Engl J Med 340 (15): 1137-43, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Keys HM, Bundy BN, Stehman FB, et al.: Cisplatin, radiation, and adjuvant hysterectomy compared with radiation and adjuvant hysterectomy for bulky stage IB cervical carcinoma. N Engl J Med 340 (15): 1154-61, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Peters WA 3rd, Liu PY, Barrett RJ 2nd, et al.: Concurrent chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy compared with pelvic radiation therapy alone as adjuvant therapy after radical surgery in high-risk early-stage cancer of the cervix. J Clin Oncol 18 (8): 1606-13, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Thomas GM: Improved treatment for cervical cancer--concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. N Engl J Med 340 (15): 1198-200, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Pearcey R, Brundage M, Drouin P, et al.: Phase III trial comparing radical radiotherapy with and without cisplatin chemotherapy in patients with advanced squamous cell cancer of the cervix. J Clin Oncol 20 (4): 966-72, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Rose PG, Bundy BN: Chemoradiation for locally advanced cervical cancer: does it help? J Clin Oncol 20 (4): 891-3, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Chemoradiotherapy for Cervical Cancer Meta-Analysis Collaboration: Reducing uncertainties about the effects of chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual patient data from 18 randomized trials. J Clin Oncol 26 (35): 5802-12, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Nag S, Chao C, Erickson B, et al.: The American Brachytherapy Society recommendations for low-dose-rate brachytherapy for carcinoma of the cervix. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 52 (1): 33-48, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Nag S, Erickson B, Thomadsen B, et al.: The American Brachytherapy Society recommendations for high-dose-rate brachytherapy for carcinoma of the cervix. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 48 (1): 201-11, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Patel FD, Sharma SC, Negi PS, et al.: Low dose rate vs. high dose rate brachytherapy in the treatment of carcinoma of the uterine cervix: a clinical trial. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 28 (2): 335-41, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  16. Thoms WW Jr, Eifel PJ, Smith TL, et al.: Bulky endocervical carcinoma: a 23-year experience. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 23 (3): 491-9, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Downey GO, Potish RA, Adcock LL, et al.: Pretreatment surgical staging in cervical carcinoma: therapeutic efficacy of pelvic lymph node resection. Am J Obstet Gynecol 160 (5 Pt 1): 1055-61, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Vigliotti AP, Wen BC, Hussey DH, et al.: Extended field irradiation for carcinoma of the uterine cervix with positive periaortic nodes. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 23 (3): 501-9, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Weiser EB, Bundy BN, Hoskins WJ, et al.: Extraperitoneal versus transperitoneal selective paraaortic lymphadenectomy in the pretreatment surgical staging of advanced cervical carcinoma (a Gynecologic Oncology Group study). Gynecol Oncol 33 (3): 283-9, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. Fine BA, Hempling RE, Piver MS, et al.: Severe radiation morbidity in carcinoma of the cervix: impact of pretherapy surgical staging and previous surgery. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 31 (4): 717-23, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Estape RE, Angioli R, Madrigal M, et al.: Close vaginal margins as a prognostic factor after radical hysterectomy. Gynecol Oncol 68 (3): 229-32, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Sedlis A, Bundy BN, Rotman MZ, et al.: A randomized trial of pelvic radiation therapy versus no further therapy in selected patients with stage IB carcinoma of the cervix after radical hysterectomy and pelvic lymphadenectomy: A Gynecologic Oncology Group Study. Gynecol Oncol 73 (2): 177-83, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Cunningham MJ, Dunton CJ, Corn B, et al.: Extended-field radiation therapy in early-stage cervical carcinoma: survival and complications. Gynecol Oncol 43 (1): 51-4, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Rotman M, Pajak TF, Choi K, et al.: Prophylactic extended-field irradiation of para-aortic lymph nodes in stages IIB and bulky IB and IIA cervical carcinomas. Ten-year treatment results of RTOG 79-20. JAMA 274 (5): 387-93, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Poorvu PD, Sadow CA, Townamchai K, et al.: Duodenal and other gastrointestinal toxicity in cervical and endometrial cancer treated with extended-field intensity modulated radiation therapy to paraaortic lymph nodes. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 85 (5): 1262-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Covens A, Shaw P, Murphy J, et al.: Is radical trachelectomy a safe alternative to radical hysterectomy for patients with stage IA-B carcinoma of the cervix? Cancer 86 (11): 2273-9, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Dargent D, Martin X, Sacchetoni A, et al.: Laparoscopic vaginal radical trachelectomy: a treatment to preserve the fertility of cervical carcinoma patients. Cancer 88 (8): 1877-82, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Plante M, Renaud MC, Hoskins IA, et al.: Vaginal radical trachelectomy: a valuable fertility-preserving option in the management of early-stage cervical cancer. A series of 50 pregnancies and review of the literature. Gynecol Oncol 98 (1): 3-10, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  29. Shepherd JH, Spencer C, Herod J, et al.: Radical vaginal trachelectomy as a fertility-sparing procedure in women with early-stage cervical cancer-cumulative pregnancy rate in a series of 123 women. BJOG 113 (6): 719-24, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  30. Wethington SL, Cibula D, Duska LR, et al.: An international series on abdominal radical trachelectomy: 101 patients and 28 pregnancies. Int J Gynecol Cancer 22 (7): 1251-7, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  31. Ferrandina G, Margariti PA, Smaniotto D, et al.: Long-term analysis of clinical outcome and complications in locally advanced cervical cancer patients administered concomitant chemoradiation followed by radical surgery. Gynecol Oncol 119 (3): 404-10, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  32. Ferrandina G, Distefano MG, De Vincenzo R, et al.: Paclitaxel, epirubicin, and cisplatin (TEP) regimen as neoadjuvant treatment in locally advanced cervical cancer: long-term results. Gynecol Oncol 128 (3): 518-23, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  33. Zanaboni F, Grijuela B, Giudici S, et al.: Weekly topotecan and cisplatin (TOPOCIS) as neo-adjuvant chemotherapy for locally-advanced squamous cervical carcinoma: Results of a phase II multicentric study. Eur J Cancer 49 (5): 1065-72, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  34. Manci N, Marchetti C, Di Tucci C, et al.: A prospective phase II study of topotecan (Hycamtin®) and cisplatin as neoadjuvant chemotherapy in locally advanced cervical cancer. Gynecol Oncol 122 (2): 285-90, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  36. Benedetti-Panici P, Greggi S, Colombo A, et al.: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radical surgery versus exclusive radiotherapy in locally advanced squamous cell cervical cancer: results from the Italian multicenter randomized study. J Clin Oncol 20 (1): 179-88, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  37. Chen MF, Tseng CJ, Tseng CC, et al.: Adjuvant concurrent chemoradiotherapy with intensity-modulated pelvic radiotherapy after surgery for high-risk, early stage cervical cancer patients. Cancer J 14 (3): 200-6, 2008 May-Jun. [PUBMED Abstract]
  38. Hasselle MD, Rose BS, Kochanski JD, et al.: Clinical outcomes of intensity-modulated pelvic radiation therapy for carcinoma of the cervix. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 80 (5): 1436-45, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  39. Folkert MR, Shih KK, Abu-Rustum NR, et al.: Postoperative pelvic intensity-modulated radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy in intermediate- and high-risk cervical cancer. Gynecol Oncol 128 (2): 288-93, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: April 21, 2015