Recovering after a pelvic exenteration

It can take a while to recover after pelvic exenteration. After the operation, your nurse will encourage you to move about. They will show you leg movements and breathing exercises, and will help you get out of bed. You’ll be able to do more for yourself a few days after the operation.

You’ll need support when you get home after surgery. The hospital staff can arrange help for you if you live on your own. Nurses will visit you at home to help look after your wound and stomas. A stoma nurse will help you change your stoma bags. It can take a while to get used to living with a stoma, as it can be difficult to start with.

Try to take things slowly after your operation. Over time, you will be able to do more and you will have more energy. It may take up to 12 weeks after surgery before you start to feel better. It may take up to six months after surgery for your body to heal. Only do as much as you feel able to.

Getting moving after pelvic exenteration

You’ll be encouraged to start moving around as soon as possible after the operation. This is an essential part of your recovery. When you’re in bed, it’s important to do regular leg movements and deep breathing exercises. A physiotherapist or nurse will explain these to you.

A few days after your operation, your nurses will help you get out of bed and sit in a chair. Once all your drips and drains are out, you’ll find it easier to move around and take short walks around the ward.

Stomas after pelvic exenteration

After a few days, you’ll start being able to do more for yourself. Your stoma nurse will teach you how to change your stoma bags. You may feel worried about doing this to begin with, but most people find they get used to caring for their stoma.

Learning to look after a stoma takes time and patience, and no one expects you to be able to cope straight away. Like anything new, it will get easier with time and practice. We have more information about living with a stoma.

Going home after pelvic exenteration

When you go home, you’ll need extra help and support for a few weeks as your body heals. If you live alone and don’t have anyone who can stay with you, tell the hospital staff so they can arrange help for you.

A district nurse will visit you in your home to help you care for your wound and stomas. You’ll also continue to see your stoma nurse. They’ll support and advise you while you’re learning to care for your stomas.

Recovery from pelvic exenteration takes a long time. It may take about 8-12 weeks after your surgery before you really start to feel better. Build up your activities slowly and only do as much as you feel able to. Your surgeon or nurse will tell you what things to avoid doing until you have had time to heal. As time goes on, you’ll begin to feel stronger and have more energy.

How long it takes you to return to work depends on the type of job you do. Ask your surgeon if you’re unsure of how much time off you’ll need. Many people don’t feel completely healed for up to six months after surgery, and it can take a year or more to fully adjust. We have more information about work and cancer, which you may find useful.

Back to Pelvic exenteration in women

Having pelvic exenteration

Pelvic exenteration takes about eight hours. After the operation, you will have new ways for urine and bowel motions to leave your body.