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What types of surgery treat cervical cancer?

Barbara A. Goff, MD
Gynecologic Oncology

Cervical cancer is usually treated with primary surgery when it is in its early stages and with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy in advanced stages. For early stage disease some women can be treated with a simple cone biopsy, which allows women to preserve fertility. Another fertility sparing option is a radical trachelectomy, which removes the cervix but preserves the uterus and ovaries so women can still get pregnant. If women do not which to preserve fertility then usually a hysterectomy or radical hysterectomy is performed along with removal of the lymph nodes in the pelvis. Most surgery for early cervical cancer can be performed robotically, which significantly reduces postoperative pain, blood loss and allows for a much faster recovery. If you need surgery for cervical cancer it is very important to see an expert who performs this surgery all the time. Once the surgery is complete most women will require no additional treatment but a small percentage may need radiation and chemotherapy following the hysterectomy.

The following are the different types of surgery for cervical cancer:
  • 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 a surgical scalpel or laser in a "cold knife" procedure.
  • Vaginal hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus): requires a small incision at the top of the vagina to remove the uterus and sometimes other reproductive organs.
  • Open surgery: An incision a few inches in length is made in the abdomen to provide access to the reproductive organs.

A simple hysterectomy removes your uterus and cervix. An abdominal hysterectomy removes your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, while a radical hysterectomy removes your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and tissue around the uterus such as lymph nodes.

If cancer returns after your initial treatment, more extensive surgery, such as pelvic exenteration, may be necessary. This procedure may involve removal of your uterus, cervix, lymph nodes, bladder, vagina, rectum, and/or part of your colon.
  • Trachelectomy: A newer procedure designed to maintain your ability to have children, trachelectomy removes your cervix, upper portion of your vagina, and nearby lymph nodes. A "purse-string stitch" replaces the cervical opening. It can be performed as open abdominal surgery or through an incision through the vagina.
  • 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 (removal of the uterus).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.