Cervical cancer is curable. Early detection and a favorable response to cancer treatment increase the survival rate and chances of it not returning.

Cervical cancer affects the tissue towards the bottom of the uterus, where the uterus and vagina connect. The American Cancer Society predicts that doctors will diagnose around 14,480 cases of cervical cancer in 2021.

This article examines whether cervical cancer is curable, what factors influence the outlook, and survival rates. It also looks at symptoms and treatments.

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In some cases, cervical cancer is curable. Doctors consider a person as cured when the cancer goes away during treatment and never returns.

However, it is difficult to know for sure that cancer will never come back. Therefore, many doctors use the term “remission” instead. Partial remission means there are fewer signs and symptoms of the cancer. Complete remission means there are no detectable signs of cancer.

Sometimes, people in remission remain cancer-free for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, the cancer returns later on. Some doctors may say a person is “cured” if they stay in complete remission for 5 years or more, but this cannot fully guarantee it will never return.

According to previous studies, many people who receive treatment for early-stage cervical cancer enter remission, with only 10–15% experiencing a recurrence.

Survival rates are a way of measuring how long people live following their diagnosis. The average survival rate for cervical cancer differs depending on the cancer stage. Doctors use four stages to classify cervical cancer:

  • stage I, where cancer cells are only in the cervix
  • stage II, where cancer cells have spread to the upper two-thirds of the vagina or the tissue around the uterus
  • stage III, where the cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina or the pelvic wall, and lymph nodes
  • stage IV, where the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis, such as to the lining of the rectum or bladder, or other areas

More advanced stages of cervical cancer have lower average survival rates. However, this does not predict what will happen in every case.

The SEER database provides specific survival rate statistics based on the percentage of people who survive for at least 5 years following their cancer diagnosis, compared to the rest of the population. They are:

  • 92% for localized cervical cancer
  • 58% for regional cervical cancer, which is in or around the pelvis
  • 17% for distant cervical cancer, which has spread further away

Alongside the stage, other factors that can affect the outlook for a person with cervical cancer include:

  • their overall health status
  • whether cancer cells have spread to their blood or lymph nodes
  • how well they respond to treatment

In its early stages, cervical cancer often causes no signs or symptoms. This means that someone can have cervical cancer without knowing until it becomes more advanced.

In many cases, symptoms do not appear until the cancer grows into nearby tissues. For this reason, it is important to attend regular cervical cancer screenings or Pap smears.

As the cancer progresses, it may cause a person to experience:

  • pelvic pain
  • pain during sex
  • unusual discharge or bleeding from their vagina, such as bleeding after sex
  • swelling in their legs
  • difficulty urinating or having a bowel movement

Treatment for people with cervical cancer depends on the size of the tumor, the number of affected tissues and organs, and if the person wants to become pregnant in the future.

Treatment may also depend on the goals of the individual and their doctor, such as curing the cancer, controlling its growth and spread, or relieving symptoms.


There are several surgical options for people with cervical cancer, including:

  • Conization: Removal of a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal.
  • Total hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus, including the cervix.
  • Radical hysterectomy: This involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, part of the vagina, and a wide area of tissues and ligaments surrounding these organs.
  • Modified radical hysterectomy: This is similar to a radical hysterectomy but only removes the upper part of the vagina and the tissues or ligaments that closely surround these organs.
  • Radical trachelectomy: Removal of the cervix, the upper part of the vagina, and nearby tissue and lymph nodes.
  • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
  • Pelvic exenteration: Removal of the bladder, rectum, lower colon, vagina, cervix, ovaries, and nearby lymph nodes.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays, or other types of radiation, to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from growing.

There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy involves a machine that directs radiation towards the cancer. Internal radiation therapy requires a doctor to place radioactive substances sealed in seeds, needles, wires, or catheters in or around the cancer.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or prevent them from dividing. A doctor or chemotherapy nurse may administer it orally, intravenously, or place it directly into the cerebrospinal fluid or body cavity.

Oral and intravenous chemotherapy can reach cancer cells throughout the body, whereas chemotherapy placed directly into a body cavity primarily affects the cancer cells in that area.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy drugs kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. One type of targeted therapy is monoclonal antibody therapy, which uses lab-grown immune system cells that can identify the cancer. Doctors may use this alone or use the antibodies to transport other drugs or substances to the cells.


Immunotherapy involves taking drugs that prompt the body’s immune system to attack cancer. It is also known as biologic therapy or biotherapy.

Learn the differences between immunotherapy and chemotherapy.

Cancer affects people physically and emotionally, and going through treatment can be stressful. Cancer support services can provide help.

Doctors and cancer care teams are a valuable source of information on cervical cancer treatment and recovery. They may be able to provide resources and connect people to local support services.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition also has a support group and discussion community, providing a place for people with cervical cancer to ask questions and receive support from individuals who have lived the same experience.

People can find local support programs via the American Cancer Society website.

Cervical cancer is curable, but it is difficult for doctors to know for sure that it will never come back following treatment. Therefore, doctors often use the term “remission” to describe cancer that has gone away and is no longer causing symptoms.

Whether cancer treatment works depends on many factors, including the stage, type, and location of the cancer. According to research, only 10–15% of people with early-stage cervical cancer experience a recurrence following treatment. Cancer that is advanced and has spread throughout the body has a lower chance of going into remission.