The answers provided in this section, unless otherwise noted, are written from the patient’s and/or supporter’s perspective.  This information is intended to help patients and supporters know what to expect by comparing notes with others.  We are not physicians or scientists, so please use this information to supplement your own research or to guide you in the questions you will want to ask your medical caregivers.  Visit the Resources section for more information on SCCC and LCCC, including medical literature.

If you have a question that you believe should be included in our FAQ’s, please Contact Us to let us know!


What types of chemotherapy are used?

Cisplatin or Carboplatin, used in combination with Etoposide, are often used as the first-line chemotherapy treatment for Small and Large Cell Cervical Cancer. There is no “standard” course of treatment due to the rarity of SCCC and LCCC, so oncologists base the treatment plan on the protocol for treating Small Cell Lung Cancer.  The number of rounds of this chemo cocktail can also vary.  In my (Amy’s) case, I did six rounds of Cisplatin and Etoposide.  This was my plan, which was repeated every 3 weeks – Day 1: Cisplatin and Etoposide, 10-hour infusion (which included pre-chemo meds and fluids); Day 2 and Day 3: Etoposide, 6-hour infusion (including pre-chemo meds and fluids); Day 4: Fluids and Neulasta shot.

Other chemo options may include Taxol, Topotecan, Irinotecan, Avastin.

Does HPV cause Small or Large Cell Cervical Cancer?

The short answer is no. We do not know the cause of SCCC or LCCC, therefore it cannot be prevented.  This lack of knowledge about the disease is another reason we are fighting to raise money for research.

There is no evidence that the Human Papilloma Virus causes SCCC or LCCC. A substantial number of women diagnosed with SCCC or LCCC report never having tested positive for HPV.    The former co-director of a world-renowned neuroendocrine program has stated that HPV does not cause neuroendocrine cervical cancer.  M.D. Anderson cites a study that demonstrates a relationship between HPV18 and SCCC / LCCC; however, there is no causal evidence to support that HPV is  precondition to a diagnosis of SCCC or LCCC.

What are common chemo side effects?

Each patient tolerates chemotherapy differently, and there are several types of chemo that could be used, so there isn’t one set answer to this question.  In my (Amy’s) case, I was able to carry on my normal life with some adjustments.  For example, my cancer center operates on a 24/7 schedule, so I could check in for chemo late in the afternoon, spend the night (they had mini-rooms with beds for long infusion patients) and go home at 7 a.m. the next morning.  Most days, I was able to work from home throughout treatment, and I missed less than a week of work over my six months of chemo treatments.

I did lose my hair (and it wasn’t so bad!), and I’d typically get pretty bad nausea that would start about 2-3 days after each round ended and last for another 3 days or so.  Most patients get a Neulasta shot after chemo to boost the white blood cell count that dips right after chemo, and I did as well.  Once the shot wears off about a week later, my white blood count – which means my immunity to common illnesses like colds – would fall, so I had to be very careful about being around crowds then.  I also got tired more easily than normal, and I experienced indigestion like never before.  Others experience neuropathy, or pain / tingling in their feet or hands, or a metallic taste that (especially when combined with nausea) makes it hard to eat.


Are there tips for handling chemo side effects?

But of course!

  • Think positive. Just because a side effect is common does not mean it affects everyone.  Hope for the best, and your body might just surprise you!
  • Give yourself a break, ask for help if you need it and know that the worst of it WILL end.
  • A great resource for preparing for chemo is a book called Chemo: Secrets to Thriving (from someone who’s been there) by Roxanne Brown.  Ms. Brown’s book is less than 80 pages long but provides a wealth of information on all aspects of cancer treatment, including dealing with side effects.
  • Getting enough calories during treatment is essential, but this can be a challenge. The American Cancer Society’s What to East During Cancer Treatment cookbook provides simple recipes that are organized by symptom, such as Nausea, Taste Alterations, Unintentional Weight Loss, etc.
  • Ask your doctor about prescription and over-the-counter medications you can take to counteract the side effects.  While these may not knock out the side effects completely, they can make you a lot more comfortable.
  • Join the SCCC and LCCC Sisterhood (if you are a patient) or Supporters group on Facebook to compare notes with others who are undergoing or are veterans of similar treatments.  These ladies are full of ideas!



How do I know I’m in good hands with my medical team?

For starters, you can ask them some questions.  Has your doctor treated anyone with high grade neuroendocrine carcinoma before? Is he or she open to consulting with other experts who have treated this type of cancer?  Will they be supportive if you wish to get a second opinion? Are they willing to fight on your behalf for follow up scans if your insurance company balks? Do they treat you as though your illness requires a sense of urgency on their part?

It seems obvious, but YOU (or your loved ones) are the best advocate for your health, and SCCC and LCCC require quick and decisive action.  You may have the most caring and compassionate doctor in the world, but you must be sure you can literally trust him or her with your life.  If they haven’t treated SCCC or LCCC in the past (and many haven’t), make sure they are committed to researching the best treatment options for you.  You can find a list of doctors who are recommended by LCCC and SCCC patients they have treated on the Doctors page of this site.


What are the common side effects of radiation?

Common short-term side effects of external radiation to the pelvic region include diarrhea, bladder discomfort, a sunburn-like rash (or dryness, peeling, itching, etc.), fatigue, most of which ease within weeks of finishing radiation.  These symptoms can usually be managed to some extent with medications such as Immodium for diarrhea or Phenazopyridine for urinary issues, and by getting lots of rest and fluids.  Another potential side effect, a narrowing of the vagina, can be addressed during and after radiation treatment with the use of vaginal dilators.

Radiation treatment also causes early menopause in women who have not had a hysterectomy, and menopause has its own set of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings and thinning bones.  Radiation damage to bone mass can lead to longer-term issues such as a higher likelihood of bone fractures in the pelvis.


What is neuroendocrine cervical cancer?

This information is found on M.D. Anderson’s website.

“Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are neoplasms that are composed of cells which have features of both the endocrine (hormonal) as well as the nervous system [1]. They can be classified as benign or malignant (cancer). These tumors can originate from many different sites in the body, including the uterine cervix. The following discussion will be limited to malignant neuroendocrine carcinoma (NEC) of the cervix.

The cervix is the narrow, lower segment of the uterus (womb) that connects with the upper vagina. Tumors can arise from the outer (ectocervical) or inner (endocervical) portion of the cervix. Approximately 12,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012 [2]. That means that approximately 1 in 147 women will develop cervical cancer in their lifetime [3].

There are multiple different types of cervical cancer, named after the appearance of the cells under the microscope. The most common type is squamous cell cancer, accounting for 70% of all cervical cancers. The second most common is adenocarcinoma, which accounts for 20-25% of all cervical cancer [4]. Neuroendocrine tumors account for only 2% of all cervical cancers [5]. Therefore, approximately 250 women are diagnosed annually with NEC of the cervix in the United States.

Four subtypes of NEC have been delineated:
Small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma
Large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma
Typical carcinoid tumor
Atypical carcinoid tumor

Of these four types, carcinoid tumors, although malignant, are considered to be well differentiated and therefore have a more indolent course and favorable prognosis [1]. Poorly differentiated, or high grade, NEC includes small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (SCNEC) and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC). Of the four subtypes, SCNEC is most common and LCNEC second most common of NEC arising from the cervix [6]. Since these two subtypes represent the majority of NEC of the cervix as well as the most aggressive phenotypes, the remaining discussion below will be limited to these two subtypes. In fact, small cell and large cell subtypes behave and are therefore treated similarly, and will be grouped together in the following statements.”

1. Klimstra, D.S., et al., The pathologic classification of neuroendocrine tumors: a review of nomenclature, grading, and staging systems. Pancreas, 2010. 39(6): p. 707-12.

2. Siegel, R., D. Naishadham, and A. Jemal, Cancer Statistics, 2012. CA Cancer J Clin, 2012. 62(1): p. 10-29.

3. American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2012. Available from

4. Alfsen, G.C., et al., Histopathologic subtyping of adenocarcinoma reveals increasing incidence rates of endometrioid tumors in all age groups: a population based study with review of all nonsquamous cervical carcinomas in Norway from 1966 to 1970, 1976 to 1980, and 1986 to 1990. Cancer, 2000. 89(6): p. 1291-9.

5. Albores-Saavedra, J., et al., Terminology of endocrine tumors of the uterine cervix: results of a workshop sponsored by the College of American Pathologists and the National Cancer Institute. Arch Pathol Lab Med, 1997. 121(1): p. 34-9.

Who is at risk for neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix?

This information is found on M.D. Anderson’s website.

“Because NEC of the cervix is uncommon, the etiology and predisposing risk factors are poorly understood. In one study, when compared to women with the more common squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix, women were slightly younger at the time of diagnosis. The mean age at diagnosis was 49 years-old (compared to 52 years-old). There was also a higher proportion of Asian women with NEC of the cervix, when compared to women with squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix [7].

While the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and smoking are now well-known risk factors for developing most other kinds of cervical cancer, less is known about the role they play in development NEC of the cervix. Several studies have demonstrated a relationship between HPV infection and NEC of the cervix [8]. However, unlike HPV-associated squamous and adenocarcinoma (SA) of the cervix which have a preinvasive lesion that can often be detected by routine screening methods prior to growth of an actual cancer, no such preinvasive phase appears to exist for NEC.”

7. McCusker, M.E., et al., Endocrine tumors of the uterine cervix: incidence, demographics, and survival with comparison to squamous cell carcinoma. Gynecol Oncol, 2003. 88(3); p. 333-9.

8. Stoler, M.H., et al., Small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix. A human papillomavirus type 18-associated cancer. Am J Surg Pathol, 1991. 15(1): p. 28-32.


What is the prognosis?

This information is found on M.D. Anderson’s website.

“Like most cancer, the prognosis depends on the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis. In one study of women with NEC of the cervix, 71% of patients were diagnosed with early stage disease (stage I-IIA), 24% were diagnosed with locally advanced disease (stage IIB-IVA), and 4% with diagnosed with distant metastatic disease (stage IVB) [9].

When looking at patients diagnosed at all stages, five year survival for NEC of the cervix is worse than that for other more common types of cervical cancer (36 vs 60-70%) [15]. In the same study mentioned above, 5-year survival was 37% for those with I-IIA disease versus 9% for those with more advanced disease. In another series, survival for stage I was 42%, stage II 19%, stage III 10% and stage IV 23% [7].

It appears that prognosis for small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma originating from the cervix is better than when originating in the lung. As noted above, while the five year survival for patients with early stage NEC of the cervix ranges from 19- 42%, the survival for limited stage lung cancer is about 10%. Similarly, the survival for those with extensive stage disease of the cervix is about 10-23%, while the comparable survival rates for disease starting in the lung is 1-2% [16].”

7. McCusker, M.E., et al., Endocrine tumors of the uterine cervix: incidence, demographics, and survival with comparison to squamous cell carcinoma. Gynecol Oncol, 2003. 88(3): p. 333-9.

9. Cohen, J.G., et al., Small cell carcinoma of the cervix: treatment and survival outcomes of 188 patients. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 2010. 203(4): p. 347 e1-6.

15. Chen, J., O.K. Macdonald, and D.K. Gaffney, Incidence, mortality, and prognostic factors of small cell carcinoma of the cervix. Obstet Gynecol, 2008. 111(6): P. 1394-402.

16. Gaspar, L.E., et at., Limited-stage small-cell lunch cancer (stages I-III): observations from the National Cancer Data Base. Clin Lung Cancer, 2005. 6(6): p. 355-60.

Symptoms of neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix?

This information is found on M.D. Anderson’s website.

“In general, the symptoms of neuroendocrine cancer do not appear to differ significantly from those of other types of cervical cancer [9]. Like other cancers of the uterine cervix, the symptoms of NEC of the cervix typically depend on the extent of the spread of disease (stage of disease). However, because of the aggressive nature of these tumors, patients more frequently have advanced disease at the time of initial diagnosis.

Similar to other cervical cancers, symptoms may include vaginal discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding including postcoital bleeding (bleeding after intercourse), and pelvic pain. More advanced disease can include symptoms of weight loss, abdominal bloating, or symptoms specific to metastatic disease (liver, adrenals, bone, bone marrow, and the brain) [10]. Occasionally, like neuroendocrine tumors of the lung, small cell cancer of the cervix can present with paraneoplastic syndromes affecting the endocrine (hormonal) and/or nervous systems such as hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium levels), neurologic disorders, Cushing’s syndrome, and SIADH [11].”

9. Cohen, J.G., et al., Small cell carcinoma of the cervix: treatment and survival outcomes of 188 patients. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 2010. 203(4): p. 347 e1-6.

10. Barakat RR, M.M., Randall ME, Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology. Fifth ed2009.

11. Hirahatake, K., et al., Cytologic and hormonal findings in a carcinoid tumor of the uterine cervix. Acta Cytol, 1990. 34(2): p. 119-24.

How is neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix diagnosed?

This information is found on M.D. Anderson’s website.

“Symptoms such as those listed above often prompt a medical evaluation leading to the diagnosis. Sometimes, routine gynecologic pelvic exam may reveal a cervical mass. Biopsy should be performed of any cervical mass to determine a more definitive diagnosis. Occasionally, early disease may be detected by routine screening Pap smear. Although Pap smear may detect the disease, the efficacy of it as a screening modality is unknown, and it likely performs worse than it does for other cervical cancers. Some women with NEC of the cervix have had normal annual Pap smears leading up to the time they were diagnosed with cancer.

As mentioned above, more advanced disease may be associated with different symptoms leading to different routes of diagnosis. Ultimately, biopsy of a tumor in the cervix or other metastatic tumor will be obtained and analyzed by a pathologist. Under the microscope, neuroendocrine cancers of the cervix appear identical to those originating in the lung. Special immunohistochemical stains will be performed to confirm the diagnosis. These tumors can be mixed (have other components), but a tumor with any NEC component no matter how small, should be treated as so. Of note, sometimes the neuroendocrine component of the cancer may be missed on a tissue biopsy and will not be made until more tissue is obtained, such as at the time of surgery.

Once a tissue diagnosis has been made, further investigation will be made to determine the extent of spread of disease, or the stage of disease. Two different staging systems have been used to describe this disease. The FIGO system is the one used to describe all cervical cancers, while the two-tiered system used to describe small cell carcinomas of the lung is also used (see tables with staging). Although cervical cancer is typically staged clinically (based on exam with limited imaging such as a chest X-ray), when there is a known diagnosis of NEC of the cervix prior to starting treatment, more extensive workup is recommended. Given the aggressive nature of the disease and the propensity for early metastases (spread of disease beyond the cervix), additional imaging of the chest and abdominopelvic cavities is recommended. This can be accomplished with CT imaging. PET/CT imaging may also be considered, although trials are lacking to prove its superiority over routine CT scan in this disease. More dedicated imaging may be required based on symptomatology or findings on initial imaging such as a bone scan or brain imaging. Equally important to imaging, referral to a gynecologic oncologist for a thorough pelvic exam is essential to help to determine if surgical resection is appropriate.”


How is neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix treated?

This information is found on M.D. Anderson’s website.

“Once the stage of disease has been determined, a treatment plan is formulated. As mentioned above, because cervical cancer is clinically staged, some of the findings on the initial workup are not included in the official stage, but do alter treatment recommendations. Because the disease is so rare, there are no completed prospective trials to date establishing the standard of care for the treatment of this disease. While treatment plans are often extrapolated from treatment of more common types of cervical cancers, given the aggressive nature of this particular disease, a multimodal approach to treatment is more often employed. In 2011, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology issued a clinical document summarizing available literature on NET of the female reproductive tract [12]. The treatment algorithms below are based on that document [13]. Additionally, there is extensive data for treatment of high-grade lung and extrapulmonary NEC provided by the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society (NANETS) and their published consensus guidelines [14]. Knowledge gained from treatment of NEC affecting other sites of origin has been extrapolated to the treatment of cervical NEC.

For early stage disease that is confined to the cervix and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, the initial treatment depends on tumor size and involvement of local tissue.

For tumors less than 4cm in size that do not appear to locally invade other pelvic structures based on physical exam, initial treatment frequently includes surgery in the form of radical hysterectomy and removal of appropriate lymph nodes. Ideally, this should be performed by a gynecologic oncologist. Pathological information from surgery will dictate additional care, although usually further therapy is recommended, even if the tumor has been completely resected with negative margins. Usually chemotherapy with a combination of cisplatin and etoposide (EP) is recommended. Frequently this is given at the same time a radiation therapy, and additional chemotherapy is given following completion of chemoradiation. An acceptable alternative approach for initial treatment of women in this category may be with chemoradiotherapy followed by chemotherapy alone, without surgery.

For early stage disease with bulky tumors (>4cm), chemoradiation is recommended. There is limited data about the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy then proceeding with surgery, followed by more chemotherapy with consideration for radiotherapy as well.

For locally advanced disease including those with lymph node metastatsis, the recommended approach includes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

When disease has spread to other organs beyond the pelvis and lymph nodes, chemotherapy is the recommended treatment. This can include the two drugs mentioned above, cisplatin and etoposide. Another regimen that has been used effectively and was borrowed from treatment of lung cancer is VAC/PE (vincristine, adriamycin and cyclophosphamide, alternating with cisplatin and etoposide).

Unlike NEC of the lung, given the uncommon incidence of spread NEC of the cervix to the brain, prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) is not recommended at this time.

For patients without evidence of disease at the completion of their primary treatment, frequent routine follow-up with their physician is recommended. They may choose to perform imaging such as a CT or PET/CT scan at regular intervals, and imaging is recommended for any patient with symptoms that might indicate recurrence.”

12. Gardner, G.J., D. Reidy-Lagunes, and P.A. Gehrig, Neuroendocrine tumors of the gynecologic tract: A Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) clinical document. Gynecol Oncol, 2011. 122(1): p. 190-8.

13. Chan, J.K., et al., Prognostic factors in neuroendocrine small cell cervical carcinoma: a multivariate analysis. Cancer, 2003. 97(3): p. 568-74.

14. Strosberg, J.R., et al., The NANETS consensus guidelines for the diagnosis and management of poorly differentiated (high-grade) extrapulmonary neuroendocrine carcinomas. Pacreas, 2010. 39(6): p. 799-800.