If, after initial treatment, your cancer comes back in the pelvic area, it may be possible to have an operation called a pelvic exenteration. This is usually only offered after chemoradiotherapy has been given. A pelvic exenteration is a major operation that involves removing all of the structures in the pelvic area and can include the womb, cervix, vagina, ovaries, bladder and the lower end of the large bowel (rectum). This type of operation is only suitable for a small number of women and you will need to have various investigations and scans to see if it is possible.
Part of the operation involves creating two openings (stomas) on the abdominal wall. These are needed because the operation removes the bladder and the rectum and you will need two stoma bags: one to collect your bowel motions and one for urine. These stomas are known as a colostomy and a urostomy. Before the operation you will see a nurse who specialises in the care of people with stomas (a stoma nurse). The nurse will explain all about stomas and how to look after them and can answer any questions you may have. The stoma nurse will also visit you after the operation to help you.
The operation usually involves making (reconstructing) a new vagina.
A pelvic exenteration is a big operation, and many women find that recovery can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. It is important that you understand exactly how the operation may affect you so it is a good idea to talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse. They can support you in deciding whether pelvic exenteration is right for you.
You may find it helpful to join our Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trusts online forum community. There are other women who have gone through pelvic exenteration who would be willing to share their stories and help support you through your surgery and recovery.
"Pelvic Exenteration." Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. N.p., 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.