A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus, where a baby grows during a pregnancy, and is the second most common surgery among women in the United States. A hysterectomy may be used to treat cervical, ovarian and uterine cancers. The procedure may involve removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes. If you have not yet reached menopause, a hysterectomy that removes the ovaries will cause your menstrual periods to stop. Ask your doctor about taking estrogen after the surgery to help lower your risk of heart disease and relieve menopause symptoms.
Gynecologic cancers are complex and often involve multiple treatment modalities such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Our Gynecologic Oncology Program treats gynecologic malignancies using advanced technology that helps to spare healthy tissue.
A hysterectomy may be used treat other conditions, including:
- Fibroids: These are non-cancerous, muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus.
- Endometriosis: The tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus and on other on other organs.
- Prolapse of the uterus: The uterus slips down from its usual place into the vagina.
- Adenomyosis: The tissue that lines the uterus grows inside the walls of the uterus.
- Chronic pelvic pain: It is an option particularly if it is clear the pain comes from the uterus.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Causes include changes in hormone levels, infection, cancer or fibroids.
In some cases, only part of the uterus is removed. The type of hysterectomy performed depends on your individual situation. There are three types of hysterectomies:
- Partial: The upper part of the uterus is removed and the cervix is left intact. This type is also called subtotal or supracervical.
- Total: The entire uterus and the cervix are removed.
- Radical: The entire uterus, the tissue on both sides of the cervix and the upper part of the vagina are removed. This type is performed mainly for cancer treatment.
Having a hysterectomy may result in changes to your body and may affect how you feel about yourself. It’s important to discuss potential changes with your doctor or nurse, as well as trusted family members and friends, before the surgery.
Surgeons can perform a hysterectomy in different ways. Recovery times vary based on the type of hysterectomy.
- Abdominal: The surgeon makes a 5- to 7-inch incision in the lower part of the belly. The incision, or cut, may be up and down or across the belly. Recovery time is four to six weeks.
- Vaginal: The surgeon makes a cut in the vagina to remove the uterus and then stitches the incision. Recovery time is three to four weeks.
- Laparoscopic: The surgeon makes three or four small incisions in the belly and inserts surgical tools and a special camera called a laparoscope to see inside the body. The surgeon operates while watching the video from the laparoscope on high-resolution monitors in the operating room. The uterus is cut into small pieces and removed through the incisions. Recovery time is three to four weeks.
- Laparoscopically assisted vaginal: The surgeon removes the uterus through the vagina without making an incision and using a laparoscope to guide the procedure. Recovery time is three to four weeks.
- Robotic-assisted: Similar to a laparoscopic hysterectomy, the surgeon inserts a surgical tools and a laparoscope through small incisions in the belly. The surgeon uses a special machine to perform the surgery. Recovery time is two to four weeks.
After any type of hysterectomy, get plenty of rest and do not lift heavy objects for six weeks. You should be able to take baths and have sex after the six-week recovery period.
Learn more about cervical cancer treatments