When Melissa Gilbert, a homemaker from upstate New York, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2003, the idea of a hysterectomy — the standard treatment — was more devastating to her than the disease itself. Although she had one daughter, her dreams of additional children and a full house suddenly disappeared.
Fortunately, she learned of a new surgical procedure called a radical trachelectomy, which can preserve fertility in patients with early-stage cervical cancer, and in which Memorial Sloan-Kettering gynecologic oncologist Nadeem R. Abu-Rustum specializes. After Dr. Abu-Rustum removed her cancer using this technique, Ms. Gilbert went on to give birth to two more children. “I'm so grateful to Dr. Abu-Rustum and Memorial Sloan-Kettering for allowing me and other women to have this choice,” she said
Ms. Gilbert spoke at a June 2 event celebrating ten years of radical trachelectomies at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Among those gathered in the Rockefeller Research Laboratories Boardroom were 19 other women who had undergone the procedure at the Center and later became pregnant, accompanied by their children and other family members. Also joining them were Center medical staff. Memorial Sloan-Kettering surgeons have performed more than 100 radical trachelectomies, making the program the most active in the United States.
Dr. Abu-Rustum praised Richard R. Barakat, Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Gynecology Service, for his leadership and support as Dr. Abu-Rustum and fellow gynecologic oncologist Yukio Sonoda built the radical trachelectomy program over the past decade. “I really can't think of a better culmination for the effort we put together as a gynecologic service than to be here today with these families and these children,” he added.