Often recommended for the treatment of gynecologic cancer, a total hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a woman’s uterus, cervix and surrounding tissue. If a hysterectomy has been recommended as part of your treatment plan, you may be wondering what to expect. Among other things, your experience will be influenced by the specific type of procedure performed. For instance, depending on your specific needs, your gynecologic oncologist may recommend a minimally invasive approach such a robotic assistance or laparoscopy, an open approach (laparotomy) or a vaginal approach.
In addition to a hysterectomy, you may have a separate but related procedure called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy to remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes. This procedure may be performed during the same surgical session as your hysterectomy.
What to expect
In general, here are five things that you can expect after a hysterectomy for cancer treatment:
- During the first 24 hours after your hysterectomy, you will likely experience some vaginal bleeding that slowly tapers off. If the bleeding seems to be getting heavier rather than lighter, you should call your physician right away.
- Because a hysterectomy is major surgery, you may feel extremely tired afterward, and your fatigue may last for up to several weeks. Try to be active as much as possible, but also take frequent breaks.
- For several weeks, you may have vaginal discharge that appears bloody at first, then gradually becomes thinner and lighter over time.
- If both of your ovaries are removed, you may experience symptoms of menopause, this includes hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. If appropriate, your physician may recommend hormone replacement therapy or other medications to help alleviate your discomfort.
- You may have a sense of loss that causes you to feel depressed, decreases your appetite, affects your concentration or disrupts your sleep. These feelings and reactions are normal and should diminish with time. If they persist or significantly disrupt your life, you are encouraged to talk with your physician or a supportive care provider, such as a psychologist.
As you recover from your hysterectomy, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience fever or other signs of infection, heavy bleeding (soaking through a pad in less than one hour), severe pain that does not respond to your medications, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, difficulty urinating or a foul odor from your vagina.
Medically reviewed by Jing-Yi Chern, MD, ScM, gynecologic oncologist
If you have further questions about what to expect after a hysterectomy, you can request an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals. Virtual visit appointments are also available.