Studies: Less invasive cervical cancer treatment is also less effective

CINCINNATI -- For patients dealing with early-stage cervical cancer, the treatment known as minimally invasive surgery -- an operation in which a hysterectomy is performed with fiber-optic instruments inserted through small incisions into a patient's abdomen -- likely sounds far less frightening than its traditional open-surgery counterpart. However, a pair of new studies suggest it is also significantly less effective.

Dr. Daniel Margul, a University of Cincinnati Medical Center OB-GYN who co-authored one study in the New England Journal of Medicine, found patients who had the minimally invasive surgery had a lower rate of survival than those who opted for open surgery. Those who opted for the former had a three-year survival rate of about 94 percent compared to the 99 percent survival rate of those who underwent the latter.

Why? Doctors aren't sure, although theories listed in the study include that the carbon dioxide used to inflate the uterus during surgery could encourage the growth of cancerous cells or that the surgical tools could spread them around.

Margul said cervical cancer patients faced with a choice between the two surgeries can and should advocate for themselves when meeting with their physicians.

"Generally, people aren't requesting (open surgery) because they know it's a bigger surgery," he said. "I think now with this new data, more will be asking for it, and the surgeons will be offering it."

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