A hysterectomy is an operation to remove the womb. It can be used as a treatment for womb, cervical, ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer (PPC).

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is an operation to remove the womb. The womb (uterus) is a pear-shaped organ where a baby is carried during pregnancy. It is low in the pelvis (the area between the hips).

The female reproductive system

There are two types of hysterectomy:

  • A simple or total hysterectomy – the surgeon removes the womb and cervix.
  • A radical hysterectomy – the surgeon removes the upper part of the vagina, the cervix, the womb, and the supporting tissue around the womb and cervix (parametrium).

Sometimes the surgeon removes other areas at the same time as a hysterectomy. This means the hysterectomy may be one part of a larger operation. For example, an operation to remove the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes is called a hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

When is a hysterectomy needed?

A hysterectomy may be part of surgery to remove:

If you have Lynch syndrome, a hysterectomy is sometimes used to prevent womb cancer developing.

How a hysterectomy is done

A hysterectomy can be done in different ways. Your surgeon will talk to you about the most suitable type of surgery for you.

Laparoscopic surgery

The surgeon operates through small cuts in the abdomen. They use small surgical instruments and a thin telescope with a video camera on the end (laparoscope). The laparoscope lets the surgeon see inside the body.

Abdominal surgery

The surgeon makes one cut (incision) in the tummy (abdomen). Afterwards, you have a wound that goes across your tummy close to the bikini line or that goes down from the belly button to the bikini line.

Robotic surgery

This is like laparoscopic surgery, but the laparoscope and instruments are attached to robotic arms. The surgeon controls the robotic arms.

Vaginal surgery

The surgeon operates through a cut at the top of the vagina. The surgeon may combine this with laparoscopic surgery.

Preparing for a hysterectomy

If you smoke, giving up before your operation will help reduce your risk of chest problems. It will also help your wound to heal after the operation. Your GP can give you advice and support.

You will go to a pre-assessment clinic a few days or weeks before the operation. You will have tests to check you are fit for surgery, such as blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart.

A member of the team will explain the operation to you. Make sure you discuss any questions or concerns that you have about the operation with them.

You will usually be admitted to hospital on the morning of your operation. You will be given elastic stockings (TED stockings) to wear during and after the operation to prevent blood clots forming in your legs.

Some hospitals follow an enhanced recovery programme. This aims to:

  • reduce the time you spend in hospital
  • speed up your recovery
  • involve you more in your own care.

For example, your doctor or nurse may give you information about diet and exercise before surgery. Or they may put in place any arrangements needed for you to go home. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if an enhanced recovery programme is suitable for you and if it is available.

Recovery after a hysterectomy

How quickly you recover from a hysterectomy will depend on the type of operation you have and the extent of the surgery. Your nurse will give you advice on looking after yourself so that your wound heals and you recover well.

It is important to take things easy for a while. Try to get plenty of rest and eat well. If you are having any problems, it is important to contact your doctor or specialist nurse.

We have more information about recovering after surgery for:

You can use our cancer A-Z to find information about other cancer types.