What to expect after surgery
When you wake up after the operation, you will be in a recovery room near the operating theatre. Once you are fully conscious, you will be transferred to the ward.
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Tubes and drips
You will have an intravenous drip in your arm to give you medicines and fluid, and a tube (catheter) in your bladder to collect urine (wee). These will usually be removed the day after the operation.
You will stay in hospital for about 1–4 days. How long you stay will depend on the type of surgery you had and how quickly you recover. Most people who have keyhole surgery will be able to go home on the first or second day after the surgery (and occasionally on the day of surgery).
As with all major surgery, you will have some discomfort or pain. The level of pain will depend on the type of operation. After keyhole surgery, you will usually be given pain medicine to swallow. If you have open surgery, you may be given pain medicine in different ways:
- through a drip into a vein (intravenously)
- via a local anaesthetic injection into the abdomen (a transverse abdominis plane or TAP block)
- via a local anaesthetic injection into your back, either into spinal fluid (a spinal) or into the space around spinal nerves (an epidural)
- with a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) system, a machine that allows you to press a button for a measured dose of pain relief.
While you are in hospital, let your doctor or nurse know if you are in pain so they can adjust your medicines to make you as comfortable as possible. Do not wait until the pain is severe. After you go home, you can continue taking pain medicine as needed.
You can expect some light vaginal bleeding after the surgery, which should stop within 2 weeks. Your treatment team will talk to you about how you can keep the wound/s clean to prevent infection once you go home.
You will be given a daily injection of a blood thinner to reduce the risk of blood clots. Depending on your risk of clotting, you may be taught to give this injection to yourself so you can continue it for a few weeks at home. You may also be advised to wear compression stockings for up to 4 weeks to help the blood in your legs circulate well and prevent clots.
The medicines used during and after surgery can cause constipation (difficulty having bowel movements). Talk to your treatment team about how to manage this – they may suggest medicines to help prevent or relieve constipation. Once your surgeon says you can get out of bed, walking around can also help.
Your doctor will have all the test results about a week after the operation. Whether more treatment is necessary will depend on the type, stage and grade of the disease, and the amount of remaining cancer, if any. If the cancer is at a very early stage, you may not need further treatment.
I had a total hysterectomy and some of my lymph nodes were removed as well. Fortunately, the cancer hadn’t spread, but because it was grade 3 the doctor recommended I have chemotherapy and radiation therapy.— Julie
For more on this, see our general section on Surgery.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Orla McNally, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist, Director Oncology/Dysplasia, Royal Women’s Hospital, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, University of Melbourne, and Director of Gynaecology Tumour Stream, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Yoland Antill, Medical Oncologist, Peninsula Health, Parkville Familial Cancer Centre, Cabrini Health and Monash University, VIC; Grace Guerzoni, Consumer; Zeina Hayes, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Bronwyn Jennings, Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Mater Hospital Brisbane, QLD; A/Prof Christopher Milross, Director of Mission and Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Mariad O’Gorman, Clinical Psychologist, Liverpool Cancer Therapy Centre and Bankstown Cancer Centre, NSW.
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