Pelvic Exenteration

Pelvic Exenteration


Pelvic exenteration, also known as pelvic clearance, is a major surgical procedure to treat cancer that has spread through the pelvis by removing multiple organs. Typically, this means removing the lower bowel or rectum and the prostate or vagina. The bladder may also be removed.

What cancers can pelvic exenteration treat?

Pelvic exenteration is usually performed to treat advanced cancer that has spread or come back after previous treatment. This includes:

  • Rectal cancer
  • Anal cancer

Am I suitable for pelvic exenteration?

This procedure can cure cancer in some, but it is not suitable for all patients. It is also a major operation and Dr Jamie Murphy will discuss the risks and possible complications before you decide to proceed.

What does pelvic exenteration surgery involve?

Pelvic exenteration is very lengthy surgery that can take more than eight hours. Colorectal surgeon Dr Jamie Murphy is usually joined by other surgeons such as a urologist who specialises in the urinary tract, and a plastic surgeon specialising to close the wounds associated with this type of surgery.

What happens after pelvic exenteration surgery?

Recovery is a lengthy process and you will be in hospital for at least a couple of weeks, including a couple of days in a high-dependency unit. You will have a colostomy (bag for faeces) and may also require urinary diversion in the form of either a urostomy or Carter stoma (bag for urine). A specialist stoma nurse will give you advice on caring for your stoma before you are discharged.

It can take several months to recover from pelvic exenteration and a physiotherapist will advise you on exercises to perform. Men and women often experience changes to their sex life, both in terms of the physical and emotional.