Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
In 1993, I had a pelvic exenteration because of due to side effects from radiation for cervical cancer. My question is "Why didn't they do a vaginal reconstruction at the time of my surgery, and is it safe for me to have this surgery now, considering the amount of time passed, and the radiation that I had at the time of treatment?"
Since I have had no real complications from my exenteration, I wonder if I am pushing my luck, that is to say, by considering a vaginal reconstruction?
Stephen C. Rubin, MD, Professor and Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:
If a vaginal reconstruction is desired, it is generally preferable to perform this procedure at the time of the pelvic exenteration surgery, which typically includes removal of the vagina, as well as the bladder and/or the rectum. There may be technical reasons that prevent vaginal reconstruction from being done at the time of exenteration, and in some cases patients may not be interested in reconstruction.
Vaginal reconstruction may still be possible years after exenteration, and can be performed using a variety of techniques. I would suggest consulting a gynecologic oncologist or plastic surgeon with experience in vaginal reconstruction for an opinion regarding the feasibility in your particular situation.