Side effects after surgery
After surgery for cancer of the uterus, you may experience some of these side effects:
Impact on sexuality
The changes you experience after surgery may affect how you feel about sex and how you respond sexually. You may notice changes such as vaginal dryness and loss of libido.
The removal of lymph nodes from the pelvis can stop lymph fluid from draining normally, causing swelling in the legs known as lymphoedema. The risk of developing lymphoedema is low following most operations for cancer of the uterus in Australia, but it is higher in women who had a full lymphadenectomy followed by external beam radiation therapy. Symptoms appear gradually, sometimes years after the treatment. Your treatment team will explain how to reduce your risk.
Read more about managing lymphoedema.
Vaginal vault prolapse
This is when the top of the vagina drops towards the vaginal opening because the structures that support it have weakened. Having a hysterectomy does not appear to increase the risk of vaginal vault prolapse in women without pelvic floor issues. Prolapse is more commonly caused by childbirth and weak pelvic floor muscles. To help prevent prolapse, it is important to do pelvic floor exercises several times a day. Most women can start these exercises 1–2 weeks after surgery. Your treatment team may explain how to do these exercises or you can see a women’s health physiotherapist.
For more on this, see Exercise during cancer treatment.
Podcast: Sex and Cancer
A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Prof Michael Friedlander, Medical Oncologist, The Prince of Wales Hospital and Conjoint Professor of Medicine, The University of NSW, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Adele Hudson, Statewide Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Oncology Service, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Dr Anthony Richards, Gynaecological Oncologist, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, VIC; Georgina Richter, Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.