About the Cervix
The neck of the uterus, called the cervix, makes up part of a woman's reproductive system. The cervix is a short thick tube of smooth muscle around a narrow channel leading from the body of the uterus to the vagina. It is conical in shape and protrudes through the upper anterior vaginal wall.
About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in women around the world and is one of the most common cancers that affects a woman's reproductive organ. All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but it occurs most often in women over 30 years old. Approximately 11,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year.
Cervical cancer most commonly begins in the thin, flat cells that line the bottom of the cervix. These are known as squamous cell carcinomas and account for approximately eighty percent of cervical cancers. Cervical cancer can also develop in the glandular cells that line the upper portion of the cervix. These are known as adenocarcinomas and they make up about fifteen percent of cervical cancer cases.
The most common cause of cervical cancer is due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. Two strains in particular, 16 and 18, account for 75% of cervical cancer cases. Other risk factors for developing cervical cancer include women who smoke, have a weakened immune system, have a history of multiple sexual partners, or have been infected with other sexually transmitted infections.
Early cervical cancer or early cervical pre-cancerous abnormalities generally produce no signs or symptoms. The only way to detect early cervical cancer is to have regular pelvic examinations that include a Pap smear. Pap tests can detect abnormal cells in and around the cervix that may suggest precancerous or cancerous changes. Symptoms may appear when the cancer is more advanced and has spread to nearby areas. The following are signs and symptoms that may be present at the time of diagnosis:
- vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- watery, bloody vaginal discharge
- pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Cervical Cancer Treatment
Whether you're the one who's been diagnosed, or a family member or loved one, determining the right treatment option can be difficult. If caught early cervical cancer can often be cured. Treatment options vary depending on the stage of the disease. The stage of cervical cancer describes its size, depth of invasion, and how far it has spread. For most stages of cervical cancer treatment options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of methods.
Robotic Radical Hysterectomy
The cornerstone surgical option in the treatment of cervical cancer is the radical hysterectomy. This procedure is different from a simple hysterectomy in that it requires more extensive and delicate dissection of the tissues supporting the uterus. The delicate tissues that are involved in the surgery are the ureter and the bladder. The ureter is the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. This structure needs to be safely mobilized in order to remove the appropriate tissues surrounding the uterus. Other supporting structures, such as the uterosacral ligament, are also partially removed during a radical hysterectomy. The da Vinci® surgical system allows us to perform these delicate procedures with extreme precision.
Robotic Radical Parametrectomy
Cervical cancer may often not be diagnosed at the time of initial hysterectomy. If cervical cancer is found after a simple hysterectomy it may be necessary to perform an additional procedure to remove the surrounding tissues of the cervix to ensure complete removal of the cancer. A surgical option in this case would be to perform a Radical Parametrectomy. A radical parametrectomy involves removing the tissues that originally supported the cervix and uterus and also involves delicate handling of the ureter and the bladder. The da Vinci® surgical system helps us perform this delicate operation with great precision.
Fertility Preservation and Cervical Cancer Treatment
If cervical cancer is found at an early stage there may be options for women who wish to preserve future fertility. A robotic trachelectomy involves removing only the cervix. While it is common for women to undergo a complete hysterectomy for cervical cancer, an option for selected women includes removing only the cervix and the surrounding supporting tissues while leaving the body of the uterus, tubes, and ovaries in place. The vagina is then connected to the body of the uterus and allowed to heal. The da Vinci® surgical system allows us to manuever around the uterus and remove only the necessary tissues required for the treatment of early stage cervical cancer.
Robotic-Assisted Procedures for Cervical Cancer - Are you a candidate?
To learn more about the Robotic Radical Hysterectomy, Robotic Radical Parametrectomy, or the Robotic Trachelectomy for the treatment of Cervical Cancer and which treatment option is right for you, contact us or call us at (919) 843-7805.