Surgery for womb cancer

Surgery is the main treatment for womb cancer. Your operation will be carried out by a surgeon who is experienced in treating gynaecological cancers. The main type of surgery is a total hysterectomy which involves removing the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

A hysterectomy can be carried out in different ways:

  • Laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole hysterectomy)
  • Abdominal hysterectomy

Your surgeon will advise you on which type of surgery is suitable for you.

During the operation, your surgeon may remove some or all of the lymph nodes close to the womb and at the back of the tummy. This allows them to be checked for cancer cells so your surgeon can tell you more about the stage of the cancer.

If the cancer has spread to organs close by, such as the bladder or bowel, you’ll usually have surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible. This helps to control the cancer and may make the treatment you have after surgery more effective.

Surgery for womb cancer will affect your fertility. Talk to your cancer specialist about this before your treatment starts.

Removing the womb (hysterectomy)

Usually, you will have a total hysterectomy. This involves removing the womb and the cervix. The fallopian tubes and both ovaries are also removed (called a bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy).

A hysterectomy can be carried out in different ways. Your surgeon will advise you on which type of hysterectomy is suitable for you.


Laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole hysterectomy)

The surgeon makes small cuts in your tummy and inserts small surgical instruments and a laparoscope (a telescope with a camera on the end). This allows the surgeon to see pictures on a screen.

The womb and ovaries are removed through the vagina and then the top of the vagina is sewn up. Women recover faster from this type of hysterectomy and it involves a shorter stay in hospital. But it’s not suitable for everyone.


Abdominal hysterectomy

The surgeon makes a cut (incision) across your tummy above the pubic hair, or sometimes downwards from your belly button to the pubic hair.

We have more information about different types of hysterectomy.


What else may be done

During your operation, the surgeon will check organs nearby to find out more about the stage of the cancer. This includes putting some fluid into your tummy (abdomen), then removing it so that it can be tested for cancer cells. Doctors sometimes call this abdominal or peritoneal washing.

Removing lymph nodes

You may have some or all of the lymph nodes close to the womb (pelvic nodes) and at the back of the tummy (para-aortic nodes) removed. This allows them to be checked for cancer cells. Your surgeon will talk to you about the benefits and disadvantages of removing lymph nodes.

Knowing if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes helps your specialist decide if you need further treatment.


When the cancer has spread outside the womb

If the cancer has spread to organs close by, such as the bladder or bowel, you’ll usually have an operation to remove as much of the cancer as possible. This helps to control the cancer and may make the treatment you have after surgery more effective.

Very rarely, if the cancer is widespread in the pelvic area, surgery to remove the bladder and the bowel, as well as the womb, may be done. This is a major operation called pelvic exenteration . Speak to one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 for more information on pelvic exenteration.

If the cancer has spread to the liver or lungs, surgery is not usually possible. Very occasionally, an operation to remove a secondary tumour that’s contained in one area may be done. This would only be done if the cancer elsewhere in the body is under control.


Effects on fertility

Surgery for womb cancer means that you won’t be able to have children. Although most women who have womb cancer are older, it does occasionally affect younger women.

If your fertility is a concern for you, talk to your cancer specialist before your treatment starts. Fertility is a very important part of many people’s lives, and not being able to have children can seem especially hard when you already have cancer to cope with. 

We have more information about fertility.

Back to Surgery explained

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.

What happens after surgery?

You are monitored very closely after your operation. Your nurse will give you more advice before you go home.