Mary Calvagna, MS
Related Media: Hysterectomy
The type of surgery used will depend on the stage of the cancer. Surgical procedures may be done to:
Determining the treatment for precancerous lesions depends on various factors, including:
A low-grade lesion may not need further treatment if the affected area was removed during biopsy. But you will still need to have regular pelvic exams and Pap tests. When a precancerous lesion requires treatment, you may have the following options:
This procedure removes abnormal cell growth by freezing the abnormal cells. It can be done in a doctor’s office. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. A nitrogen or carbon dioxide liquid is applied to a probe, which freezes the area. The procedure usually takes about 15 minutes.
Afterwards, you may have cramping and some bleeding, which may last several days. Later, you will have a watery discharge as the frozen area thaws and sheds the dead cells.
This procedure removes abnormal cell growth with a hot instrument, an electrical current, or a caustic substance. It can be done in the doctor’s office. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. The instrument or substance that burns off the abnormal cell area will be applied. This procedure usually takes about 15 minutes.
Afterwards, you may have cramping and some bleeding, which may last several days.
This procedure removes abnormal cell growth with an intense, narrow beam of light which heats and kills the abnormal cells. It can be done in the doctor’s office. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. The laser will be used to remove the abnormal cell area. This procedure usually takes about 30 minutes.
For all the procedures listed above, you should refrain from sex, douching, and tampons for several weeks after the procedure.
You should contact your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
If the cancer is only on the surface of the cervix, an attempt to destroy the cancerous cells may be done using one of the methods listed above for treating precancerous lesions. If the tumor has spread into deeper layers of the cervix, but has not spread beyond the cervix, surgery may be done to remove the tumor but leave the uterus and ovaries. In other cases, you may need to have a hysterectomy.
is surgical removal of the uterus, including the cervix. Sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed as well. The doctor may choose to remove lymph nodes near the uterus to determine whether the cancer has spread.
There are three different methods:
A cut is made in the lower abdomen to expose the tissues and blood vessels that surround the uterus and cervix. These tissues are cut and the blood vessels are tied off to remove the uterus. Stitches are placed in these deep structures, which will eventually dissolve and do not need to be removed. The uterus is removed from the top of the vagina and the vagina is closed to prevent infection and to keep the intestines from dropping downward.
The vagina is stretched and kept open by special instruments; no external incision is made. The doctor does, however, make an internal incision at the top of the vagina around the cervix. The uterus and cervix are cut free from their supporting ligaments and surrounding tissue, and connecting blood vessels are tied off. The uterus and cervix are removed through the vagina, which is then closed to prevent infection and to keep the intestines from dropping downward.
Laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH):
A laparoscope is inserted through a small cut near the navel. This small, telescope-like device, about the width of a pencil, with a light on one end and a magnifying lens on the other, helps the doctor see the pelvic organs. The abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide to improve your doctor's visibility and provide room to work. Images from the laparoscope are viewed on a special monitor.
Other small 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide incisions are made in the abdomen, through instruments are inserted to help move organs and remove the uterus. An incision is also made where the uterus joins the vagina. The bladder and rectum are gently pushed off the uterus, which is removed through the cut made in the vagina. The vagina is closed to prevent infection and to keep the intestines from dropping downward. The cuts are all closed with stitches, which will likely leave small scars.
With each procedure, a vaginal packing dressing is placed in the vagina. This will be removed after a day or two.
Vaginal hysterectomy and laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH) can be done if the stage of the cancer is very low. Abdominal hysterectomy permits careful removal of more tissue. This procedure is used when the stage is relatively higher.
In addition to standard surgical techniques, your physician may choose to do surgery with the assistance of a robotic device. The surgical procedures are the same as standard surgery, but the robotic device can give greater skill and limit the size and type of incision necessary to perform the procedure, reducing complications and decreasing recovery time. Not every patient is suited for robotic surgery. Ask your physician if this option is available in your area and whether you are a candidate.
Cervical cancer. American Cancer Society
website. Available at:
Accessed January 6, 2014.
Cervical cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 7, 2013. Accessed January 6, 2014.
Cervical cancer. National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/cervical. Accessed January 6, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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