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Cervical Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

In Situ Cervical Cancer Treatment

Consensus guidelines have been issued for managing women with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or adenocarcinoma in situ.[1] Properly treated, tumor control of in situ cervical carcinoma should be nearly 100%. Either expert colposcopic-directed biopsy or cone biopsy is required to exclude invasive disease before therapy is undertaken. A correlation between cytology and colposcopic-directed biopsy is also necessary before local ablative therapy is done. Unrecognized invasive disease treated with inadequate ablative therapy may be the most common cause of failure.[2] Failure to identify the disease, lack of correlation between the Pap smear and colposcopic findings, adenocarcinoma in situ, or extension of disease into the endocervical canal makes a laser, loop, or cold-knife conization mandatory.

The choice of treatment depends on the extent of disease and several patient factors, including age, cell type, desire to preserve fertility, and medical condition.

Standard Treatment Options for In Situ Cervical Cancer

Standard treatment options for in situ cervical cancer include the following:

  1. Conization.
    • Cold-knife conization (scalpel).
    • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP).[3,4]
    • Laser therapy.[5]
  2. Hysterectomy for postreproductive patients.
  3. Internal radiation therapy for medically inoperable patients.

Hysterectomy is the standard treatment for patients with adenocarcinoma in situ. The disease, which originates in the endocervical canal, may be more difficult to completely excise with a conization procedure. Conization may be offered to select patients with adenocarcinoma in situ who desire future fertility.


When the endocervical canal is involved, laser or cold-knife conization may be used for selected patients to preserve the uterus, avoid radiation therapy, and more extensive surgery.[6]

In selected cases, the outpatient LEEP may be an acceptable alternative to cold-knife conization. This procedure requires only local anesthesia and obviates the risks associated with general anesthesia for cold-knife conization.[7-9] However, controversy exists about the adequacy of LEEP as a replacement for conization; LEEP is unlikely to be sufficient for patients with adenocarcinoma in situ.[10]

Evidence (conization using LEEP):

  1. A trial comparing LEEP with cold-knife cone biopsy showed no difference in the likelihood of complete excision of dysplasia.[6]
  2. Two case reports suggested that the use of LEEP in patients with occult invasive cancer led to an inability to accurately determine depth of invasion when a focus of the cancer was transected.[11]

Hysterectomy for postreproductive patients

Hysterectomy is standard therapy for women with cervical adenocarcinoma in situ, because of the location of the disease in the endocervical canal and the possibility for skip lesions in this region, making margin status a less reliable prognostic factor. However, the effect of hysterectomy compared with conservative surgical measures on mortality has not been studied. Hysterectomy may be performed for squamous cell carcinoma in situ if conization is not possible because of previous surgery, or if positive margins are noted after conization therapy. Hysterectomy is not an acceptable front-line therapy for squamous carcinoma in situ.[12]

Internal radiation therapy for medically inoperable patients

For medically inoperable patients, a single intracavitary insertion with tandem and ovoids for 5,000 mg hours (80 Gy vaginal surface dose) may be used.[13]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage 0 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. Wright TC Jr, Massad LS, Dunton CJ, et al.: 2006 consensus guidelines for the management of women with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or adenocarcinoma in situ. Am J Obstet Gynecol 197 (4): 340-5, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Shumsky AG, Stuart GC, Nation J: Carcinoma of the cervix following conservative management of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Gynecol Oncol 53 (1): 50-4, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Wright VC, Chapman W: Intraepithelial neoplasia of the lower female genital tract: etiology, investigation, and management. Semin Surg Oncol 8 (4): 180-90, 1992 Jul-Aug. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Bloss JD: The use of electrosurgical techniques in the management of premalignant diseases of the vulva, vagina, and cervix: an excisional rather than an ablative approach. Am J Obstet Gynecol 169 (5): 1081-5, 1993. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Tsukamoto N: Treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia with the carbon dioxide laser. Gynecol Oncol 21 (3): 331-6, 1985. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Girardi F, Heydarfadai M, Koroschetz F, et al.: Cold-knife conization versus loop excision: histopathologic and clinical results of a randomized trial. Gynecol Oncol 55 (3 Pt 1): 368-70, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Wright TC Jr, Gagnon S, Richart RM, et al.: Treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia using the loop electrosurgical excision procedure. Obstet Gynecol 79 (2): 173-8, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Naumann RW, Bell MC, Alvarez RD, et al.: LLETZ is an acceptable alternative to diagnostic cold-knife conization. Gynecol Oncol 55 (2): 224-8, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Duesing N, Schwarz J, Choschzick M, et al.: Assessment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) with colposcopic biopsy and efficacy of loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). Arch Gynecol Obstet 286 (6): 1549-54, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Widrich T, Kennedy AW, Myers TM, et al.: Adenocarcinoma in situ of the uterine cervix: management and outcome. Gynecol Oncol 61 (3): 304-8, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Eddy GL, Spiegel GW, Creasman WT: Adverse effect of electrosurgical loop excision on assignment of FIGO stage in cervical cancer: report of two cases. Gynecol Oncol 55 (2): 313-7, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Massad LS: New guidelines on cervical cancer screening: more than just the end of annual Pap testing. J Low Genit Tract Dis 16 (3): 172-4, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Grigsby PW, Perez CA: Radiotherapy alone for medically inoperable carcinoma of the cervix: stage IA and carcinoma in situ. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 21 (2): 375-8, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: April 21, 2015