Cervical cancer


Cervical cancer

Surgery star_border Save this page

Surgery involves removing tissues or organs from the body. The type of surgery you have depends on your cancer. You may also hear surgery called an operation or a procedure.

Every operation is different. Ask your surgeon about what to expect.

What you need to know

Treatment of precancerous abnormalities

Some women don’t have cervical cancer but have abnormal cells in their cervix that could develop into cancer in the future. These are known as precancerous abnormalities.

There are a few different procedures that can be used to remove or destroy the abnormal cells. These include:

  • cone biopsy 
  • laser surgery 
  • loop excision 

Surgery for cervical cancer

Women whose tests show they have cervical cancer usually need surgery to remove the cancer. The type of surgery needed depends on the type, stage and grade of the cancer.

Types of surgery can include:

  • trachelectomy
  • radical trachelectomy 
  • total hysterectomy 
  • radical hysterectomy 
  • other procedures may also be combined with hysterectomy
    • bilateral salpingectomy 
    • bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy 
    • lymphadenectomy. 

Where you have cervical surgery

Some small procedures can be done in an outpatient clinic or a doctor’s rooms, e.g. having a biopsy or loop excision. However, larger operations take place in an operating theatre in a hospital.

Your surgeon will discuss with you when and where you can have your operation, and any costs involved. They, or one of their team members, will also give you instructions about what to do before your surgery and what to expect afterwards.

The surgical team for cervical cancer

Health professionals who work as part of the surgical team include:

  • gynaecological oncologist – specialist surgeon who treats gynaecological cancers
  • anaesthetist - specialist who puts you to sleep, or administers a nerve block to the treatment area, for surgery
  • nurses – who care for you in the operating theatre and in the ward
  • allied health professional – other practitioners who help you during your treatment, e.g. physiotherapist, dietitian or social worker.

What to ask or talk about

Things to discuss about cervical surgery

Things to be aware of and discuss with the surgeon (gynaecological oncologist) prior to surgery include:

  • the type of surgery they recommend
  • how much has to be cut out to remove the cancer
  • how the surgery could affect your fertility
  • if your sexual function will be affected
  • how long it will take to recover and get back to normal activities
  • the possible short and long term side effects
  • the expected costs.

Possible side effects of cervical surgery

Possible surgical side effects and complications include:

  • pain
  • infection
  • bleeding
  • bowel or bladder problems e.g. constipation or difficulty passing urine or leakage of urine
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • loss of appetite
  • blood clots.

Long term side effects can include:

  • lymphoedema (tissue swelling)
  • sudden early menopause
  • infertility
  • changes in sexual function.

Your surgeon will discuss any risks of the surgery with you before your operation. Most hospitals will also give you written information about the surgery and who to contact if you have any concerns.

The surgical team looking after you during and after your operation will take care to reduce your risk of side effects, and treat any that you get.

Every operation is different. Ask your surgeon about what to expect and see our checklist of questions to ask.

checklist Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Preparing for surgery

Before surgery, you will need to sign a consent form. It is important you understand what you are consenting to and the possible risks of the surgery.

Some things you should know are:

  • whether you need to have tests and a preoperative assessment
  • whether you need to change or stop any medications, e.g. blood thinners like aspirin
  • when you have to stop eating and drinking
  • when you have to be there
  • whether you need time off work
  • whether you need someone to care for you at home after surgery (if you are having day surgery you will need someone to drive you home).
If you smoke, you should stop before any operation as your risk of complications from surgery is higher.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

My notes: