Gynecologic cancer surgery is performed on a woman's reproductive system. It typically involves removal of a tumor, or tumors, and may include removal of organs such as the ovaries, cervix and/or uterus.
Minimally Invasive Surgery for Gynecologic Cancers
At Minnesota Oncology, we are committed to providing patients with innovative and personalized surgical care, which includes minimally invasive surgery procedures that would otherwise require large incisions and long recovery times. Minimally invasive surgery is often used to remove tumors that are cancerous or suspected to be cancerous. It can also be used for other female conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, and ovarian cysts.
Minimally invasive techniques offer patients many benefits, which can include:
- Shorter hospital stays (if hospitalization is required)
- Faster recovery and return to daily activities
- Less pain
- Lower risk of infection, bleeding, or other complications
- Less scaring compared to open surgery
The gynecologic oncologists at Minnesota Oncology will choose one of the following types of minimally invasive surgery for their patients.
In laparoscopic surgery, the gynecologic oncologist makes a few small cuts on the abdomen instead of one larger one. A long, thin tube with a tiny camera, called a laparoscope, is inserted into one of the small cuts so the surgeon can see inside the abdominal cavity. The camera projects images from the inside of the body onto a monitor, which allows the surgeon to see what he or she is doing. The surgeon uses special surgery tools that are inserted through the other small cuts to remove the tumor and some tissue.
Laparoscopy is most commonly performed for:
- Uterine cancer staging
- Evaluation pelvic masses
- Early stage ovarian cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Fertility-sparing procedures
- Removal of ovarian cysts that are not suspected to be cancerous
Laparoscopy is almost always performed under general anesthesia. This means that you will be unconscious for the procedure but can usually go home the same day or after a short hospital stay.
daVinci Robotic-Assisted Surgery
Robotic-assisted surgery is advanced laparoscopic surgery that enables the gynecologic oncologist who is performing the minimally invasive surgery to have greater precision through the use of robotic instruments and a unique 3D high definition view inside the body.
Using only a few small incisions, a thin tube with a tiny camera and a light at the end is inserted along with the surgical tools. The high-definition camera and magnification allows the surgeon to see clearly inside your body. By watching the monitor, the surgeon controls the instruments that are attached to his or her wrist. These instruments, which are in the surgeon's control at all times, allow for very precise movements. They can bend and rotate beyond a human wrist’s capabilities for greater precision.
The gynecologic oncologists at Minnesota Oncology have extensive experience with using the da Vinci® robotic system to treat gynecologic cancers. 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.
Other Surgical Treatment Options for Gynecologic Cancer
Although minimally invasive surgery is an incredibly advanced surgical approach, not all patients are good candidates for it. In some cases, surgery can’t be performed until the tumor is shrunk to a more manageable size. Examples of neoadjuvant therapy include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.
For diseases that are at a more advanced stage, meaning that cancer is no longer confined and has spread, surgery may be combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy to kill any residual cancer left behind. This is called adjuvant (or multi-modality) therapy.
Chemotherapy administered directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal chemotherapy) is also an option in some patients who have had optimal surgical resection of their tumor with minimal remaining disease.
Your gynecologic oncologist and medical team will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding your gynecologic surgery options.