Vaginal reconstruction

If you have part or all of the vaginal removed, you may be able to have vaginal reconstruction surgery.

Vaginal reconstruction

If you have all or part of the vagina removed as part of a surgery for cancer, you may be able to have vaginal reconstruction. This is surgery to create a new vagina.

It can be done during the cancer surgery, or as a separate operation after you have recovered. You will have a specialist nurse who can support you and talk to you about any concerns you have about vaginal reconstruction surgery.

Is vaginal reconstruction right for me?

Whether vaginal reconstruction is suitable for you will depend on your health and what cancer treatments you have had before.

Not everyone chooses to have vaginal reconstruction. If you have a partner, it can be helpful to talk to them about your options and the possible changes.

You can also talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse about whether it is right for you.

It is important to think about how the surgery may affect you. Some people who have vaginal reconstruction may be able to have vaginal sex, but this is not always possible. It may also help with how you feel about your body (body image).

Having vaginal reconstruction

A doctor called a plastic surgeon makes your new vagina using flaps of skin, fat and muscle. These are taken from other parts of the body such as the buttocks, thighs, tummy or a piece of bowel. These flaps are shaped and stitched into place.

After vaginal reconstruction

It can take time for your new vagina to heal. Everyone is different so try not to compare yourself to others.


After your operation, you will need medicines to manage any pain.

At first, you may be given painkillers into a vein using an electronic pump. You control the pump using a hand control that you can press when you need more of the painkiller. This is called patient-controlled analgesia (PCA).

It is fine to press the hand control whenever you have pain. The nurse sets the pump so you cannot have too much painkiller.

You will be given painkillers to take at home. Tell your doctor or nurse if these are not working for you. They can change them to something that does work.

We have more information about managing pain, and painkillers.

Your wound

Wound infections can be a complication of the surgery. Signs the wound is infected include:

  • heat
  • redness
  • swelling
  • fluid or pus coming from the wound
  • feeling unwell
  • a fever or high temperature.

Tell your nurse or doctor if you have any of these symptoms, even after you go home. If you are unable to talk to your hospital team, contact your GP or out-of-hours service.


There might be scarring after the reconstruction. This can make your vagina smaller and less stretchy. Your hospital team may recommend you use vaginal dilators to help with this.

Dilators are tampon-shaped plastic tubes. They come in different sizes and you use them with a lubricant. You use the dilators regularly. Your doctor or nurse will explain how to use them and how often to use them.

It is important to keep the dilator clean. You should wash it with warm soapy water after each use.


After vaginal reconstruction, vaginal sex may be possible. It may take you some time to feel like you are ready to try. Try not to put pressure on yourself. It might help to talk about your concerns.

You may have feeling (sensation) in your new vagina, but this is usually different to what you could feel before. Trying different positions may help to find what feels most comfortable for you.

If vaginal sex is possible, it can also help to keep your new vagina open. This means you may be able to use dilators less often.


Your new vagina will not make its own lubrication. You will need to use lubricant gels with dilators during sex and for any internal examinations. Your specialist nurse can give you more information about what gels or creams you can try.

We have more information about:

  • cancer and your sex life – including tips on talking to your healthcare team and coping with your feelings
  • body image – if you are worried about changes to your appearance.

Getting support

Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 March 2023
Next review: 01 March 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.