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Gynecological Oncology

Gynecologic oncology/pelvic surgery is a division of Minnesota Oncology comprised of six gynecologic oncologists/surgeons, one women's healthcare nurse practitioner and four physician assistants specializing in gynecologic oncology.

The primary focus is the diagnosis, treatment and management of female reproductive cancers which include malignancies of the ovaries, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. Our physicians are experts in gynecologic oncology surgeries; the administration and management of chemotherapy; and the indication for radiation therapy for gynecologic cancers.

Our providers also diagnose and treat pre-cancerous genital tract conditions and perform in-office colposcopies, endometrial biopsies, LEEP (Loop Electrocautery Excisional Procedure) procedures and laser surgery.

The reasons to undergo surgery for gynecologic cancer may include:

  • Diagnosis (to determine if cancer is present)
  • Staging (determine the extent of the cancer)
  • Treatment (remove the cancer)
  • Implant tools to help with chemotherapy or radiation

The most common area of surgery in gynecologic oncology is the abdomen.

To determine which surgical approach will be used, your physician will evaluate and consider the following:

  • Goals of the surgery  
  • Patient’s health condition
  • Size of the uterus or tumor that needs to be removed
  • Type of surgery

Abdominal Surgery

Open Abdominal Surgery (Laparotomy)

This traditional surgical approach uses, as its name implies, a large incision (6-12 inches) to provide open access to the abdominal area. 

  • In cancer surgery, the incision is usually vertical (up and down)
  • May be necessary for large masses/tumors
  • May be necessary where exposure to the entire abdomen is required
  • May be necessary when certain health/medical conditions exist
  • It is most commonly performed for:
    • Advanced-stage ovarian cancer surgery
    • Removal of uterus or large tumors
    • Other radical surgeries

Minimally Invasive Surgery (Laparoscopy with or without robotic assistance)

Minimally invasive surgical procedures are an alternative to open (invasive) surgery that allow for closed or local surgery with less trauma. These procedures involve the use of laparoscopic devices and remote-control manipulation of instruments with indirect observation of the surgical field through an endoscope or similar device.

  • Multiple small incisions on the abdomen
  • Camera is inserted into the abdomen to visualize the abdominal cavity
  • Small instruments are used to perform the surgery
  • Most commonly performed for:
    • Uterine cancer staging
    • Evaluation pelvic masses
    • Early stage ovarian cancer
    • Cervical cancer
    • Fertility-sparing procedures

The Robotic Advantage

The gynecologic oncologists at Minnesota Oncology have extensive experience with minimally invasive surgery using the da Vinci® robotic system to treat gynecologic cancers. This technology allows for improved dexterity, visualization and control by the surgeon. Incorporating technology developed by NASA for the use of "robotic arms" in space, the da Vinci's robotic micro-instruments translate the precise movements of the surgeon's hands while filtering out even the slightest tremors. High-definition, scaled 3D imaging allows for optimal viewing and manipulation of sensitive nerves and tissues. Because of the additional advantages with robotic surgery, minimally invasive surgery can be performed in women who otherwise might not be candidates for standard laparoscopy.

Potential advantages of da Vinci® robotic surgery:

  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less pain and scarring
  • Less risk of infection, blood loss and fewer transfusions
  • Faster recovery
  • Quicker return to normal activities