Cervical Cancer

Radical trachelectomy


Radical trachelectomy is not a standard procedure used to treat cervical cancer. It is a relatively new surgical procedure in the UK and therefore there is little data to identify exactly how effective a procedure it is on long term outcomes. Only a few of the large oncology centres offer this procedure to patients and only to those women who fulfil specific criteria, such as, those who have very early invasive cervical cancer and a strong desire to preserve their fertility.

The cervix, the upper part of the vagina, and the lymph glands in the pelvic area are removed, but the womb is left in place. After this operation it may still be possible for a woman to have a child. A stitch is made at the bottom of the uterus and this takes the place of the cervix during pregnancy. Women may experience fertility problems, difficulties in conception, late miscarriage/preterm labour and the baby needs to be delivered by caesarean section. However, initial research on a small number of women who have had a radical trachelectomy suggests several do go on to have successful pregnancies.

We interviewed two women who had had a radical trachelectomy. One woman explains how she had made a decision to have a trachelectomy rather than a hysterectomy.

Removing the cervix, top of the vagina and supporting tissues is done through the vagina as a surgical operation. A laparoscope (telescope) is inserted through the abdomen to remove the pelvic lymph glands and describe how they felt physically, immediately after their operation.

Both women felt very weak for the first few days after their operation. One explains how she found her initial recovery in hospital difficult because she had expected to be able to do things for herself more quickly than she was able to.

One of the women interviewed left hospital after five days, the other after ten days. Both explained that they were surprised by how weak they felt at first, but after about two or three weeks they had regained their strength. A woman describes why she is glad she took a full 3 months off work. She temporarily had painful periods and on/off bleeding for four months, but felt that the incentive of her sister's wedding helped her quick recovery.

Neither woman experienced any long term side effects. One said she had a very small scar which was hardly noticeable, the other had only needed three or four small stitches.

One of the women we interviewed was undergoing fertility investigations at the time that she was diagnosed with cancer. She explained that after three failed IVF treatments she is pleased she was able to have the option to have a trachelectomy because she would have found a radical hysterectomy very hard to come to terms with.

The other women had two children after her treatment; the first was born just over a year after her trachelectomy. She describes her feelings during her first pregnancy and explains that both her children were delivered safely.

Last reviewed November 2011.

Last updated March 2010.

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