Uterine Sarcoma: Surgery

October 03, 2017

Uterine Sarcoma: Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for uterine sarcoma. Surgery is commonly done by a gynecologic oncologist. This doctor is a specialist who has had extra training in the diagnosis and treatment of female cancers. The goal is to remove all of the cancer. In most cases, this means removing the uterus (hysterectomy). In some cases, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, and other tissues near the uterus are also removed. After the uterus is removed, you will no longer be able to become pregnant.

Types of surgery used to treat uterine sarcoma

The type of surgery done depends on the type of uterine sarcoma and how far it has spread. Your age and overall health are also considered. The main kinds of surgery done for uterine sarcoma include: 

  • Simple hysterectomy

  • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy

  • Radical hysterectomy

  • Lymph node removal

Simple hysterectomy

The surgeon takes out your uterus and cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to and opens into the vagina. Your doctor may also take out some nearby lymph nodes to check them to see if the cancer has spread. A hysterectomy may be done in any of these ways:

  • Simple or total abdominal hysterectomy. The surgeon makes a cut (incision) that goes across the lower part of your abdomen (called a bikini incision). Or the incision may go from about your pubic bone to your belly button (called a midline incision). The surgeon takes out your uterus and cervix through this opening.

  • Vaginal hysterectomy. The surgeon takes out the uterus and cervix through the vagina. You’ll need a small cut at the top of your vagina. This method is more difficult for the surgeon to do than an abdominal cut. But your recovery may be easier.

  • Laparoscopic-assisted hysterectomy. The surgeon makes small cuts in your belly (abdomen). The surgeon places a long, thin tool (a laparoscope) into 1 cut. It has a camera attached to a telescope. This tool lets the surgeon see your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The surgeon places other tools through other cuts to detach your uterus. The uterus is then removed through a small cut at the top of your vagina. The surgeon can also check some lymph nodes through the laparoscope.

  • Robotic hysterectomy. This is a lot like laparoscopic-assisted hysterectomy. But robotic technology is used to magnify the area and help the doctor be more precise. 

Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy

This surgery may be done along with the hysterectomy. The surgeon takes out both ovaries and both fallopian tubes. Most women with uterine sarcoma also need this surgery. The surgeon removes these organs at the same time as the hysterectomy is done. Taking out your ovaries removes the main source of hormones that can make certain kinds of cancer cells grow.

Radical hysterectomy

This surgery is for women whose cancer has spread to the cervix or the tissue around the uterus called the parametrium. It may be done if you have certain types of uterine sarcoma. If you have this procedure, your surgeon will likely use a cut made through your belly (abdominal incision). But it can be done through the vagina or using a laparoscope. In some places, newer robotic technology can be used to do the surgery. This helps the doctor see more closely and be more precise. 

During this surgery, the surgeon takes out these organs:

  • Uterus

  • Tissues next to the uterus (the parametrium and uterosacral ligaments)

  • Cervix, which connects your vagina to your uterus

  • The upper part of your vagina

  • Some nearby lymph nodes, for most women

  • Both ovaries and fallopian tubes, for some women

Lymph node removal

If your doctor thinks that there is a risk that the cancer has spread, the surgeon will likely take out lymph nodes near your uterus. This lets your healthcare team check the lymph nodes for cancer cells. Cancer cells found in the lymph nodes means that cancer has spread outside the uterus. This information helps your doctor plan any other treatment you might need. Lymph nodes are often removed at the same time as the hysterectomy.

Fluid removal during surgery

During any of these procedures, your surgeon may also remove fluid from around the uterus. This may be called a pelvic washing. The fluid can be checked to see if there are cancer cells in it. This helps your doctors plan your treatment.

Risks of surgery for uterine sarcoma

All surgery has risks. The risks of uterine sarcoma surgery depend on the type of surgery done and can include:

  • Excess bleeding

  • Infection

  • Damage to nearby organs

  • Bulging of organs under the incision (hernia)

  • Medical complications such as heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, or blood clots

  • Menopause, if bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is done

  • Swelling in the legs (lymphedema), if lymph nodes are removed

Your risks depend on your overall health, the exact type of surgery you need, how it's done, and other factors. Talk with your healthcare provider about which risks apply most to you.

It's important you know that you will not be able to get pregnant or carry a baby after a hysterectomy.

Making a decision

Your healthcare team will talk with you about the surgery options that are best for you. You may want to bring a family member or close friend with you to appointments. Write down questions you want to ask about your surgery. Make sure to ask:

  • What type of surgery will be done?

  • What will be done during surgery?

  • Will lymph nodes be removed?

  • What are the risks and possible side effects of the surgery?

  • How long will I need to be in the hospital?

  • When can I return to my normal activities?

  • Will the surgery will leave scars and what they will look like?

  • How will surgery affect my sex life?

Getting ready for your surgery

Before surgery, tell your healthcare team if you are taking any medicines. This includes over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements. This is to make sure you’re not taking anything that could affect the surgery. After you have discussed all the details with the surgeon, you will sign a consent form that says that the healthcare provider can do the surgery.

You’ll also meet the anesthesiologist. You can ask questions about the anesthesia and how it will affect you. On the day of your surgery, an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist will give you medicine to put you to sleep. The medicine, called anesthesia, also ensures that you won’t feel pain during the surgery. The anesthetist or anesthesiologist monitors you during the surgery to be sure you stay healthy and comfortable.

After your surgery

You may have to stay in the hospital for several days, depending on the type of surgery you had. For the first few days after surgery, you are likely to have pain from the incisions. Your pain can be controlled with medicine. Talk with your healthcare provider about your options for pain relief. Some people don’t want to take pain medicine. But it can help your healing. If you don’t control pain well, for example, you may not want to cough or get up very often, which you need to do as you recover from surgery.

If you have a radical hysterectomy, you will likely have a urinary catheter for a few days. This a tube put through your urethra and into your bladder. Your urine then flows into a bag outside your body. In some cases, you may go home with the catheter still in.

It's likely to take a few weeks to feel better after surgery. Here are some of the things you can expect during your recovery:

  • Pain where the incisions were made

  • Tiredness

  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding

  • Trouble urinating or having bowel movements

  • Vomiting

Your healthcare team can treat you for these problems and help you learn how to cope with them. Before you leave the hospital or surgical center, make sure you know how to check for signs of a serious problem. The type of procedure you have will determine how long it takes for you to return to normal activities after surgery. Make sure you know when to call your healthcare provider after surgery. 

Follow-up care

You may need radiation or chemotherapy treatment after surgery. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about this or any other treatments that you need to help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

When to call your healthcare provider

Let your healthcare provider know right away if you have:

  • Bleeding

  • Redness, swelling, or fluid leaking from the incision

  • Changes in bladder function or trouble passing urine

  • Increase in pain

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Swelling in your legs

  • Chest pain or trouble breathing

Before you leave the hospital or surgical center, make sure you know how to check for signs of a serious problem. The type of procedure you have will determine how long it takes for you to return to normal activities after surgery. Make sure you know when to call your healthcare provider after surgery and know how to reach them any time.


October 03, 2017


NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Uterine Neoplasms Ver 2.2017 -- April 25, 2017. National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Reviewed By:  

Goodman, Howard, MD,Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS