Taking care of yourself at home after surgery
Wound careBefore you leave hospital, the nurse will show you how to look after the wound at home. You will need to wash it with water 4 times a day using a handheld shower head or soft, squeezable plastic water bottle. You will also need to rinse the vulva after urinating or having a bowel movement. Dry the vulva well by patting dry with a clean towel or using a hairdryer on a low setting. If the area is numb, be careful when patting it dry. Infection is a risk after vulvar surgery, so report any redness, pain, swelling, wound discharge or unusual smell to your doctor or nurse.
RestYou will need to take things easy and get plenty of rest in the first week. Avoid sitting for long periods of time if it is uncomfortable, or try sitting on a pillow or 2 rolled towels to support the buttocks and reduce pressure on the wound.
EmotionsIf part of your genital area is removed, you may feel a sense of loss and grief. You may also think differently about your body (see Coping with your emotions). It may help to share your feelings with someone you trust or seek professional support.
Using the toiletIf the opening to your urethra is affected, you may find that going to the toilet is different. The urine stream might spray in different directions or go to one side. It may help to sit down towards the back of the toilet seat or adjust your position to control the flow of urine. You can also use a female urinary device, which is a soft funnel that helps direct the flow of urine. You can buy these at camping stores or online.
ExerciseCheck with your treatment team about when you can start doing your regular activities. You may not be able to lift anything heavy, but gentle exercise such as walking can help speed up recovery. Because of the risk of infection, avoid swimming until your doctor says you can.
DrivingYou will need to avoid driving after the surgery until your wound has healed and you are no longer in pain. Discuss this issue with your doctor. Check with your car insurer for any restrictions about driving after surgery.
SexSexual activity needs to be avoided for about 6–8 weeks after surgery. Ask your doctor when you can restart sexual activity, and explore other ways you and your partner can be intimate (see Impact on sexuality).
For more on this, see our general section on Surgery.
My vulva is uneven now, which makes peeing difficult. I used paper toilet seat covers as an instant fix and I purchased a female urination device. It works like a funnel.Nadine
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Prof Alison Brand AM, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Ming-Yin Lin, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Lisa Mackenzie, Clinical Psychologist Registrar, HNE Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW; Anne Mellon, CNC – Gynaecological Oncology, HNE Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW; A/Prof Tarek Meniawy, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Dr Archana Rao, Gynaecological Oncologist, Senior Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer and Blood Disorders, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Anita Tyrrell, Consumer; Maria Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council QLD.
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