This surgery involves the removal of a woman's uterus, also known as a womb, through an incision in the abdomen.
The normal female reproductive system has two ovaries, two fallopian tubes and a uterus (womb).
Cervical cancer refers to the growth of abnormal (malignant or cancerous) cells on the cervix. This type of cancer typically starts with cells that are not normal, but are not yet cancerous (dysplasia). Cervical cancer can be prevented if these abnormal cells are detected and destroyed early, before they become cancerous.
Your healthcare provider will look to see if your cervical cancer has spread to other areas of your body. This process is called “staging.” In advanced cases, cervical cancer can involve:
Your healthcare provider will need the following clinical information to decide what type of treatment is right for you.
An abdominal hysterectomy is the main surgery to treat cervical cancer that has spread outside the cervix. This surgery involves removal of the uterus through an incision in the lower abdomen. The incision can be in the lower abdomen along the bikini line (straight across or horizontal). It can also be in the area of the belly button (straight down or vertical). The type of incision is based on the reason for the surgery, previous surgeries and patient preference.
There are procedures that destroy abnormal cervical cells before they have spread beyond the cervix. These procedures do not usually affect a woman's ability to have children in the future. Three examples are:
Routine Pap smears have decreased the incidence of cervical cancer in the United States. This is because cervical cancers typically evolve slowly and Pap spears can detect pre-cancerous lesions when they are treatable. Some of the risks factors for cervical cancer include:
Things you can do to decrease your risk of developing cervical cancer, or catch it at a very early (curable) stage, include:
There are frequently no symptoms in the early stages of cervical cancer. When present, symptoms can include:
As the cancer advances, other symptoms can develop. These include:
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the symptoms noted above. He or she will perform a physical examination and Pap smear to see if there are any abnormal cells on your cervix. They may also recommend one of the following tests:
The treatment for cervical cancer is based on many factors. These factors include:
Treatments for cervical cancer are either local (only affects the area of the cancer) or systemic (affects all areas of the body). Local treatments include:
Systemic treatments include:
Treatment for cervical cancer can involve a combination of local and systemic treatments. You may also have more than one type of cancer treatment at a time. Depending on your situation, you may alternate between chemotherapy and radiation before or after surgery.
To get a full range of opinions and perspectives, you may want to consider input from a variety of doctors. This group may include:
If your healthcare provider recommends a hysterectomy, prior to the surgery tell them about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies and supplements). You should also ask about specific instructions to follow before and after the surgery. These include:
If you are a smoker, you should quit smoking. Smoking can interfere with your recovery from surgical procedures.
During your surgery, you will receive anesthesia to keep you comfortable and pain free. General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia for a hysterectomy. With this type of anesthesia, you are put into a deep sleep and are unable to see, hear, or feel anything.
It is important to remember that the total cost of this care path does not include all possible medications, labwork or imaging studies. Those charges can add up. If your healthcare provider recommends any labwork or imaging studies you may need to search for their costs separately.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of cervical cancer. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you have had them.
What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a hysterectomy?
Before you go home, make sure you understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Your surgeon should also communicate with your primary care physician.
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