What is a radical hysterectomy?

A radical hysterectomy is a procedure used to treat cervical cancer that involves removing the uterus, cervix, tissue around the cervix and the upper part of the vagina. In many patients, the pelvic and abdominal lymph nodes, ovaries and fallopian tubes are also removed during a radical hysterectomy. 

Who is a candidate for a radical hysterectomy?

Most women with cervical cancer are treated with a radical hysterectomy to ensure as much as the cancer as possible is removed. If you have very early stage cervical cancer, you may be able to have a simple hysterectomy where just the cervix and uterus are removed.

What are the risks of a radical hysterectomy?

A radical hysterectomy is a major surgery that should be performed with experienced surgeons. 

Complications may include:

  • Blood clots in legs or lungs
  • Severe bleeding
  • Injury to other internal organs
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection
  • If ovaries are removed, you could enter early menopause
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

What to expect during a radical hysterectomy?

Your Mercy Health doctor will determine what type of radical hysterectomy is right for you. A radical hysterectomy can be performed in the following ways:

  • Abdominal hysterectomy: Your surgeon will remove the uterus, ovaries and all other structures through a large incision in the abdomen.
  • Vaginal or laparoscopic assisted hysterectomy: Your surgeon will remove the organs through smaller incisions in the abdomen or vagina with a laparoscope, a surgical instrument that has a camera and high-intensity light attached to it. The laparoscope allows the surgeon to clearly see the area that needs to be removed. Your surgeon will cut the affected organs by cutting them into smaller pieces and removing.
  • Robotic-assisted hysterectomy: A robotic-assisted hysterectomy is similar to a laparoscopic-assisted hysterectomy. Your surgeon will remove the affected organs using a robot that is operated by the surgeon at a nearby computer. 

A laparoscopic or robotic procedure offers many advantages including, less time in the hospital, shorter recovery time and fewer complications.

Recovery from a radical hysterectomy

You will need to stay in the hospital for one to three days after your surgery. Once discharged, your doctor will provide detailed instructions such as:

  • Rest: Rest is crucial for the first couple weeks after a radical hysterectomy.
  • Walk: Gradually begin walking around the house to prevent blood clots from forming.
  • Do not lift heavy objects 
  • Pain management options
  • Follow-up appointment schedule
  • Most patients need to wait six weeks before engaging in sexual activity.
  • Time of returning to normal activity levels will vary depending on the type of surgery you have had. If you had an abdominal hysterectomy, it may take six weeks or more to return to your normal routine, while if you have a laparoscopic hysterectomy, it may only take two weeks.

If the ovaries are removed in the hysterectomy, you may experience symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood swings as your body adjusts to the changes in your hormone levels. 

Find a cervical cancer specialist nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you