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HealthWatch: New Cervical Cancer Treatment Brings Hope To Women Looking To Bear Children

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Treatment for cervical cancer can often lead to a hysterectomy, which ends a woman's ability to bear children, but now there's a new approach, Dr. Max Gomez reports.

Jennifer Petrakis had cervical cancer. Multiple surgical procedures had failed to stop the disease and she was faced with treatment that should cure her cancer but leave her sterile.

"He said that the biopsy said that I had cancer, and I thought this is the gravest news that you want to hear when you're 32 and trying to start a family," said Petrakis, mother of 15-month-old Niko.

"Almost all women had to have hysterectomy or a radical hysterectomy. They would not be able to bear children in the future after the surgery," said Dr. Dennis Chi of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

When cancer develops in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or womb, that standard surgery involves removing the entire uterus, cervix and surrounding tissue, a radical hysterectomy.

However, Dr. Chi and others have pioneered a less radical operation called a trachelectomy, where only the cervix and some surrounding tissue is removed, leaving the womb behind.

"The risk of cancer coming back, the re-occurrences, are not any greater than if we had done the traditional complete removal of the uterus and the cervix. We do think it's safe and we're getting women to be able to have children," said Dr. Chi.

This is the first time Dr. Chi has met his success. It took in vitro fertilization for Jennifer to get pregnant, and Niko was born almost three months premature. He spent two months in the hospital.

Nevertheless, he's just fine.

"We would love to give him some siblings," Petrakis said.

These days most cervical cancer doesn't progress to the point of needing a hysterectomy because of early detection via Pap tests.

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