Pelvic exenteration in women
Pelvic exenteration is an operation that’s sometimes used to treat cancer in the pelvis (the area of the body between the hips). This information explains what the operation involves and how you might feel afterwards.
Pelvic exenteration involves removing the bladder and/or part of the lower bowel (rectum), and the internal reproductive organs (the ovaries, womb, cervix and vagina). This operation is only done if there are no signs of cancer anywhere else in the body.
Only specialist surgeons, who are trained and experienced in doing this type of surgery, should carry out pelvic exenteration. So, you may need to be referred to a specialist centre for the operation. Before making the decision to go ahead with any surgery, it’s important to discuss the benefits and risks with your surgeon. This is a major operation, but can cure the cancer in some people.
Before the operation, you will be referred to a specialist cancer nurse who will give you information and emotional support. In some units, the specialist nurse may be called your key worker.
When pelvic exenteration is done
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This operation is most often used to treat women who have cervical cancer that has come back in the pelvis after treatment. It may also be used to treat rectal, womb, vaginal or vulval cancers that have come back in the pelvis after treatment. Rarely, pelvic exenteration may be used to treat other cancers in the pelvis.
Types of pelvic exenteration operation
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There are different types of pelvic exenteration. The operation you have depends on the type of cancer, where the cancer is in your pelvis, and what treatments you’ve had before. One of the following operations may be done.
Anterior exenteration (removing organs in the front part of the pelvis)
In this operation, the bladder and internal reproductive organs are removed. After the bladder is removed, you’ll need a new place for urine to leave your body. The surgeon will make a new opening (a stoma) on your tummy wall for this, called a urostomy.
Posterior exenteration (removing organs in the back part of the pelvis)
In this operation, the lower part of the large bowel (rectum) and internal reproductive organs are removed. The surgeon will make a new opening (stoma) on the tummy wall for bowel motions to leave the body. This is called a colostomy. You’ll wear a bag over the stoma to collect your bowel motions.
Total exenteration (removing all the organs in the pelvis)
In this operation, the bladder, rectum and internal reproductive organs are removed. After the operation, you’ll have two new openings (stomas) on your tummy wall. One of these will be a new place for urine to leave your body, called a urostomy. The other will be a new place for bowel motions to leave your body, called a colostomy.
More information about pelvic exenteration in women
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You'll need tests to see if you can have the operation and your medical team will explain all the possible effects.
Pelvic exenteration is a long operation. Find out what to expect.
You'll be in hospital for some time after the operation. Read about different things you'll need to consider.
This information is written using reliable sources.