Lymphedema and bladder-emptying difficulties after radical hysterectomy for early cervical cancer and among population controls

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Abstract

The aim of the study was to acquire knowledge that can be used to refine radical hysterectomy to improve quality-of-life outcome. Data were collected in 1996–1997 by means of an anonymous postal questionnaire in a follow-up study of two cohorts (patients and population controls). We attempted to enroll all 332 patients with stage IB–IIA cervical cancer registered in 1991–1992 at the seven departments of gynecological oncology in Sweden and 489 population controls. Ninety three (37%) of the 256 women with a history of cervical cancer who answered the questionnaire (77%) were treated with surgery alone. Three-hundred fifty population controls answered the questionnaire (72%). Women treated with radical hysterectomy, as compared with controls, had an 8-fold increase in symptoms indicating lymphedema (25% reported distress due to lymphedema), a nearly 9-fold increase in difficult emptying of the bladder, and a 22-fold increase in the need to strain to initiate bladder evacuation. Ninety percent of the patients were not willing to trade off survival for freedom from symptoms. Avoiding to induce long-term lymphedema or bladder-emptying difficulties would probably improve quality of life after radical hysterectomy (to cure cervical cancer). Few women want to compromise survival to avoid long-term symptoms.

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