Surgery for ovarian cancer

A surgeon who specialises in the treatment of female pelvic cancers called a gynaecological surgical oncologist will usually carry out surgery for women with ovarian cancer. 

Depending on how your cancer has progressed, you may need to have surgery to remove parts of your reproductive system.

This may be upsetting and difficult to come to terms with so it is important to talk through how you feel with your doctor. There are also different ways for you to access support.

Surgery is important because it is the only way to remove the cancer from your body and prevents it from spreading to other organs.

You may need to have surgery to remove these parts of your reproductive system:

  • The affected ovary and its fallopian tube (oophorectomy/salpingectomy)
  • Both ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus (this is known as a total hysterectomy)
  • Lymph nodes and surrounding tissue
  • The omentum (a fold of fatty tissue covering the intestines)
  • Any cancer that has spread into the abdominal cavity

What happens after surgery?

Following surgery you may have to stay in hospital for three to seven days. Before you return home a physiotherapist should give you a programme of gentle exercises to carry out as part of your recovery programme.

Your recovery time at home will depend on the type of surgery you’ve had but most women require six to twelve weeks to allow the abdominal muscles, tissues and stitches need time to heal.

During your recovery period it’s important to avoid lifting objects, even something as light as a kettle, as you will have many stitches that need time to repair.

If you’re struggling you can ask your GP or specialist cancer nurse to ask your local authority to provide practical help.

You will not be able to drive for six to eight weeks after your surgery.  It is worth checking your car insurance policy before you drive as some insurers will not insure drivers for a number of weeks after their operations.

If you’re working, you may need to book off at least eight weeks from work to recover.

You can download our leaflet for more information about surgery for ovarian cancer.