Abstract Micrometastases (MM) and occult tumor cell deposits (OTCD) in pelvic tissue may cause recurrences, and immunohistochemistry may improve their detection. We used cytokeratine-immunohistochemistry to investigate 263 pelvic lymph nodes and parametrial tissue for MM and OTCD obtained from eight squamous cell carcinomas (maximum tumor size: 2.5 cm). These patients were treated with radical abdominal hysterectomy (Piver type III) with complete tumor resection without receiving any adjuvant therapy. The mean count of resected pelvic lymph nodes was 32.9 (range 24–47). All lymph nodes were completely embedded, and three step sections were performed for routine histopathologic evaluation. Three patients developed pelvic side wall and five central tumor recurrences within a median time of 25.9 (range 8–55) months. On immunohistochemistry, only one case (12.5%) showed OTCD in a venule in the parametrial tissue. In patients with small cervical carcinomas (<2.5 cm in largest dimension), OTCD can only rarely be detected by immunohistochemistry after careful handling of resected lymph nodes using step sectioning for routine histologic examination and complete processing of parametrial pelvic tissue. Therefore, tumor recurrence in those patients appears to be due to occult residual tumor cells that were not resected during the classical Wertheim–Meigs procedure or that were disseminated during the surgical procedure and persisted in situ.