Less invasive surgery worse than standard approach for cervical cancer patients, study finds

Minimally invasive surgery, which has grown in popularity since 2006, is worse than standard surgery for early stage cervical cancer patients, according to two studies cited by NPR.

The studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Patients who underwent the minimally invasive surgery had four times greater likelihood of [cancer] recurrence than when they had the surgery through the open approach," said study author Pedro Ramirez, MD.

The study of more than 600 women compared the minimally invasive approach with standard surgery though a large incision. Half the women had their uterus removed through open abdominal surgery; the other half had minimally invasive surgery.

A safety board stopped the experiment before its scheduled completion after seeing women in the minimally invasive group were faring significantly worse.

The women in the minimally invasive group were also less likely to be alive four and a half years after the surgery. About 94 percent of the women were still alive after minimally invasive surgery, compared to 99 percent of women who had standard surgery.

It is unclear what exactly is causing this effect, the researchers said. Similar high quality studies have shown minimally invasive surgery is safe for uterine cancer, which suggests cervical cancer cells may be released more readily during a procedure, Dr. Ramirez said.

Carbon dioxide gas used to inflate the abdomen during minimally invasive surgery could also be contributing to worse outcomes, according to Dr. Ramirez.

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