Surgery for womb cancer

Doctors and nurses in surgery

Removing the cancer

A total hysterectomy is the most common surgery carried out for womb cancer. The cervix, womb and fallopian tubes are removed. 

In some circumstances – depending on the stage of disease – some woman will also need to have the cervix, top of the vagina, tissues around the womb and possibly surrounding lymph nodes removed. 

Checking for cancer that has spread

During the surgery your surgeon may take some tissue samples (biopsies) from areas where the cancer might spread. For example, the lining of your abdomen and pelvis or lymph nodes around your womb. The samples can be checked for cancer cells. If they contain cancer cells you will need more treatment.   

The surgeon may also put fluid into the open space in your abdomen during surgery then remove it and send it for testing to see if there is any cancer cells present. This is called peritoneal washing.

Will I get side-effects from surgery?

General side-effects: With all surgeries there is a small risk of bleeding and infection. Read more about general side-effects of surgery.

Infertility: If you have a hysterectomy, you will no longer be able to have children. This can be a very distressing side effect to the surgery especially if you have not had any children and had planned to in the future. Talk to your doctor if you hope to have children after this surgery. He or she can refer you to a fertility specialist before surgery to see what options may be open to you. In some circumstances the surgery may need to be carried out quickly and you may not have the time to see a fertility specialist. If this is the case your surgeon will discuss this with you. Read more about fertility and cancer treatment.

Early menopause: If your ovaries are removed you will get menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, dry skin, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive (low libido), low mood, poor concentration and difficulty in sleeping.  

Lymphoedema: Lymphoedema is a build-up of fluid in your legs, which can make them swell up.  This can happen any time after your surgery if your lymph glands are removed. When the glands are removed, they can no longer drain away excess fluid in your body. 

Bladder and bowel side-effects: In rare circumstances there is a risk of damage to the bladder, your ureters or bowel. If this does happen during surgery your surgeon is usually able to repair it there and then, but in some situations you may need to go back for further surgery.

Bowels may be sluggish immediately after your surgery. Constipation is very common and can take a few days to resolve. Your doctor or nurse will discuss medication to help.

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