Surgery for cervical cancer

surgery surgeons

Surgery aims to remove the cancer and the area close to it. There are different ways of doing surgery for cervical cancer, depending on the stage of your cancer. Types of surgery include:

LLETZ (Large loop excision of the transformation zone)

Removing abnormal cells in very early cervical cancer using a thin wire loop and electrical current.

Cone biopsy

A cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix. This is usually done with a general anaesthetic.


The cervix, womb and fallopian tubes are removed.

Radical hysterectomy

The cervix, womb and top part of the vagina are removed. (Image: CRUK, 2015)



One (unilateral) or both (bilateral) of your ovaries are removed. 

Radical trachelectomy

The cervix and nearby soft tissues are removed but the womb is left in place and stitched back onto the vagina. (Image: CRUK, 2014)



The lymph nodes in the pelvis are removed. This operation may be done along with one of the above operations or before you start radiotherapy.

Open surgery or laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)? 

Open surgery is where the surgeon operates through a cut (incision) in the abdomen (tummy wall). Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) is done through small openings in your abdomen (tummy wall). It usually takes less time to recover from keyhole surgery. However, your doctor will explain the surgery options to you and which they feel is best for you.

Surgery for cancer in the cervix that has come back after treatment

Pelvic exenteration

This operation may involve removing your cervix, vagina, womb, ovaries, fallopian tubes, lower bowel and bladder. It is used for cancer that has come back after treatment at the top of the vagina only. 

Because it is major surgery you will need counselling beforehand. It can be a shock to the system when you are left with stomas (openings from the bowel and bladder onto the abdomen) after surgery and having to learn how to care for them. Your doctor or nurse will give you more information and advice if you need this kind of surgery.

After surgery

You may not find it easy to sit down for any length of time at first. This should get better as your wound begins to heal.

You will have a vaginal pack inside your vagina for 24 hours after surgery. This is like a tampon made of bandages.

You will be more at risk of getting an infection after surgery. For example, urinary tract infection. You may be prescribed antibiotics after surgery. 

For the first few weeks, you will have a brown discharge from your vagina. If it gets heavier, foul smelling or if you have bleeding, contact your specialist nurse or doctor.

Most women are ready to go home 5 days after surgery. With keyhole surgery you may be ready to go home after 3 days. 

You should avoid strenuous activity (including heavy housework), heavy lifting and driving for 3 weeks, or for 6 weeks if you have had open surgery. Your doctor/nurse will discuss dos and don’ts with you in more detail.

Get plenty of rest as you may feel tired and weak for several weeks.

Avoid sex for up to 6 weeks to let the top of the vagina heal.

Avoid swimming, baths and tampons for the first 6 weeks to prevent infection to the area.

You should be able to go back to work 4–6 weeks after surgery, depending on the kind of work you do.

Read some general information on recovering after surgery

For more information

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