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Knowledge of cervical cancer surgery side effects are essential

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It is difficult to compact a topic such as 'Cervical cancer: treatment options and side effects' into a two-page article as was so well done by Hilary Jefferies

However, the side effects of only radiotherapy and chemotherapy are described. This may be due to a lack of studies on surgery effects.

Cervical cancer surgery can cause problems initially with infection, lymphocysts, difficulty in voiding and altered bowel patterns, to list a few.

Some patients experience vaginal shortening (one-third of the vagina is removed in radical hysterectomy), vaginal stenosis (post trachelectomy), psychological/emotional concerns, earlier menopause (even when the ovaries are conserved), increased urinary frequency, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and so on.

Papers on surgical morbidity include: Carter, J. et al (2008) Radical trachelectomy for cervical cancer: postoperative physical and emotional adjustment concerns. Gynecological Oncology; 111: 151­157; and Haughney, R.V.M. et al (2000) The urological, bowel and psychosexual morbidity of women more than 7 years after treatment for stage IB/IIA carcinoma of the cervix. Radiotherapy and Oncology; 57: Suppl 1, 20­22.

Nurses working with patients who have cervical cancer need a clear understanding of the side-effects of all treatments, particularly if they are involved in patient information-giving and decision-making.

Karen Johnson, Nurse clinician (Gynae), Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester

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