The extent of the cancer will determine the type of surgery needed. If the cancer has spread beyond one fallopian tube, as is usually the case, then generally the aim of treatment will be to leave you with no visible evidence of disease.
This will usually require a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), and removal of both fallopian tubes and both ovaries (a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). See below for explanations of these procedures. The omentum (a protective apron of fatty tissue over the abdominal organs) is also usually removed, and multiple biopsies will be taken.
If you have advanced disease (i.e. Stage 3) then bowel resections may be required. This is an operation for the removal of a length of bowel (either the large bowel or the small bowel).
In cases of very advanced disease, the goal of surgery is primarily to remove as much tumour bulk as safely possible (cytoreduction).
You will generally be in hospital for anywhere from 7 to 14 days, depending on how fast you recover from the surgery and whether or not you receive your first dose of chemotherapy while still in hospital.
If you are premenopausal and feel concerned about how surgery will affect your fertility, see ‘Effects on fertility’ for more information.
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus.
When you wake up from a hysterectomy, you will have several tubes in place. An intravenous drip will administer fluid as well as medication. There may also be one or two tubes in your abdomen to drain away fluid from the operation site and a small plastic tube (catheter) in your bladder to drain away urine. These tubes will usually be removed about three to five days after the operation.
Your doctors, nurses and physiotherapists will advise you on how to move your legs to prevent blood clots forming and help lymph fluid to drain. As soon as you are able, you should get out of bed and walk around. However, it may take several weeks before you feel fully recovered from the surgery.
Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is surgery to remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes. ‘Salpingo’ refers to the tube and ‘oophorectomy’ refers to the ovary; ‘ectomy’ means removal of. Bilateral is removing both sides (unilateral is removing one side).