- where the cancer is in the vagina
- how far it has grown.
Before the operation, your surgeon and specialist nurse will explain what it involves. You may need some tests before surgery to make sure you are well enough. This is usually done at a pre-assessment clinic.
If the cancer has spread into surrounding tissue, your surgeon may need to remove other organs as well as the vagina. They may advise removing:
- the womb (this is called a hysterectomy)
- the ovaries
- fallopian tubes
- nearby lymph nodes.
The surgeon makes one large cut (incision) in the abdomen. Afterwards, you have a wound that goes down from the belly button to the bikini line.
The surgeon operates through small cuts in the abdomen. They use small surgical instruments and a flexible thin telescope with a video camera on the end (laparoscope). The laparoscope lets the surgeon see inside the body.
This is like laparoscopic surgery, but the laparoscope and instruments are attached to robotic arms. The surgeon controls the robotic arms.
Your surgeon will talk to you about the type of surgery you will have.
How long you are in hospital for will depend on the type of operation you have. After your operation, the nurses will encourage you to start moving around as soon as possible. This helps prevent complications, such as a blood clot or chest infection.
Your nurse will give you elastic stockings (TED stockings) to help prevent blood clots in the legs. They may ask you to wear them for a few weeks after you go home. You may also have daily injections of a blood-thinning drug.
It is normal to have some pain or discomfort for a few days. The nurses will make sure you have regular painkillers. If the pain is not controlled, let your doctor or nurse know. They can change your painkillers or increase the dose.
It takes time to recover from surgery and you may feel tired for several weeks. If you have had a hysterectomy, you will need to avoid heavy lifting for at least 12 weeks. Your doctor or nurse will give you advice about your recovery.