About Your Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy

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Time to Read: About 28 minutes

This guide will help you get ready for your bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (sal-PIN-goh-oh-oh-foh-REK-toh-mee) at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). It will also help you understand what to expect during your recovery.

Use this guide as a source of information in the days leading up to your surgery. Bring it with you every time you come to MSK, including the day of your surgery. You and your healthcare team will refer to it throughout your care.

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About Your Surgery

About your reproductive system

Your reproductive system is in your lower abdomen (belly). It includes your:

  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Uterus
  • Cervix
  • Vagina

Your uterus is between your bladder and rectum. The lower narrow end of your uterus is called the cervix. Your fallopian tubes and ovaries are attached to your uterus.

The female reproductive system

Figure 1. The female reproductive system

About your bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy

A bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is a surgery to remove both of your fallopian tubes and both of your ovaries. You may be having this surgery because of an ovarian cyst or a high risk of ovarian cancer. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about why you’re having it.

After your surgery, you’ll stop menstruating (getting your period). You may have normal symptoms of menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. If you’re in menopause or have already gone through it, you may still notice some of these symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to manage them.

You’ll also be infertile (unable to have biological children) after your surgery. If you’d like to have biological children in the future, ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a fertility nurse specialist. For more information, read the resource Fertility Preservation: Options for Females Starting Cancer Treatment.

The surgery you’re having is called a:

  • Laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
  • Robotic-assisted laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
  • Dilation and curettage

Laparoscopic or robotic-assisted laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy

You’ll have either a laparoscopic salpingo-oophorectomy or a robotic-assisted laparoscopic salpingo-oophorectomy.

In both types of salpingo-oophorectomies, your surgeon will make a small incision (surgical cut) on your abdomen. Gas (carbon dioxide) will be pumped into your abdomen to create space. This will give your surgeon more room to do your surgery.

Next, your surgeon will make several other small incisions on your abdomen. They’ll place a long, thin video camera and surgical tools through these incisions. One end will be in your abdomen and the other end will be outside your body.

If you’re having a laparoscopic surgery, your healthcare provider will use their hands to control the video camera and surgical tools. If you’re having a robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon will use a robot to control the camera and tools.

Your surgeon will remove your ovaries through one of the small incisions, if possible. If your ovaries are too big to fit through the opening, your surgeon will make one of the incisions larger so your ovaries will fit through.

Dilation and curettage (D&C)

You may have a dilation and curettage (D&C) after your salpingo-oophorectomy. This procedure lets your surgeon check for abnormal cells in your uterus.

During your D&C, your cervix will be dilated (opened) slightly. Your surgeon will put a tool called a curette through your cervix into your uterus. They’ll use the curette to remove a small amount of tissue from the inside of your uterus.

Your surgeon may also want to look at the tissue lining the inside of your uterus to see if anything looks abnormal. This is called a hysteroscopy. During a hysteroscopy, your surgeon will put a long, thin video camera through your cervix into your uterus to examine the area.

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Getting Ready for Your Surgery

This section will help you get ready for your surgery. Read it when your surgery is scheduled. Refer to it as your surgery gets closer. It has important information about what to do to get ready.

As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

Getting Ready for Surgery

You and your care team will work together to get ready for your surgery. Help us keep you safe during your surgery by telling us if any of the following statements apply to you, even if you’re not sure.

  • I take a blood thinner, such as:
    • Aspirin
    • Heparin
    • Warfarin (Jantoven® or Coumadin®)
    • Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
    • Enoxaparin (Lovenox®)
    • Dabigatran (Pradaxa®)
    • Apixaban (Eliquis®)
    • Rivaroxaban (Xarelto®)
    There are others, so be sure your healthcare provider knows all the medications you’re taking.
  • I take prescription medications (medications my healthcare provider prescribes), including patches and creams.
  • I take over-the-counter medications (medications I buy without a prescription), including patches and creams.
  • I take dietary supplements, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, or natural or home remedies.
  • I have a pacemaker, automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD), or other heart device.
  • I have sleep apnea.
  • I’ve had a problem with anesthesia (medication to make me sleep during surgery) in the past.
  • I’m allergic to certain medication(s) or materials, including latex.
  • I’m not willing to receive a blood transfusion.
  • I drink alcohol.
  • I smoke or use an electronic smoking device, such as a vape pen, e-cigarette, or Juul®.
  • I use recreational drugs.

About Drinking Alcohol

The amount of alcohol you drink can affect you during and after your surgery. It’s important to talk with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink. This will help us plan your care.

  • If you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, it can cause seizures, delirium, and death. If we know you’re at risk for these problems, we can prescribe medications to help keep them from happening.
  • If you drink alcohol regularly, you may be at risk for other problems during and after your surgery. These include bleeding, infections, heart problems, and a longer hospital stay.

Here are things you can do before your surgery to keep from having problems:

  • Be honest with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink.
  • Try to stop drinking alcohol once your surgery is planned. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you:
    • Get a headache.
    • Feel nauseous (like you’re going to throw up).
    • Feel more anxious (nervous or worried) than usual.
    • Cannot sleep.
    These are early signs of alcohol withdrawal and can be treated.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you cannot stop drinking.
  • Ask your healthcare provider questions about drinking and surgery. As always, all your medical information will be kept private.

About Smoking

If you smoke, you can have breathing problems when you have surgery. Stopping for even a few days before your surgery can help.

MSK has specialists who can help you quit smoking. For more information about our Tobacco Treatment Program, call 212-610-0507. You can also ask your nurse about the program.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common breathing problem. It causes you to stop breathing for short lengths of time while you’re asleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, your airway becomes fully blocked during sleep.

OSA can cause serious problems during and after a procedure. Please tell us if you have or think you might have sleep apnea. If you use a breathing device (such as a CPAP machine), bring it on the day of your procedure.

Using MyMSK

MyMSK (my.mskcc.org) is your MSK patient portal account. You can use it to send and read messages from your care team, view your test results, see your appointment dates and times, and more. You can also invite your caregiver to make their own account so they can see information about your care.

If you do not have a MyMSK account, you can sign up at my.mskcc.org. You can get an enrollment ID by calling 646-227-2593 or your doctor’s office.

For help, watch How to Enroll in MyMSK: Memorial Sloan Kettering's Patient Portal. You can also contact the MyMSK Help Desk by emailing [email protected] or calling 800-248-0593.

Within 30 days of your surgery

Presurgical Testing (PST)

You’ll have a PST appointment before your surgery. The date, time, and location will be printed on the appointment reminder from your surgeon’s office. You can eat and take your usual medications the day of your appointment.

It’s helpful to bring these things to your appointment:

  • A list of all the medications you’re taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.
  • Results of any tests done outside of MSK, such as a cardiac stress test, echocardiogram, or carotid doppler study.
  • The names and telephone numbers of your healthcare providers.

During your PST appointment, you’ll meet with a nurse practitioner (NP). They work closely with anesthesiology staff (specialized healthcare providers who will give you anesthesia during your surgery). Your NP will review your medical and surgical history with you. You may have tests to plan your care. Examples are:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart rhythm.
  • A chest X-ray.
  • Blood tests.

Your NP may recommend you see other healthcare providers. They’ll also talk with you about which medications to take the morning of your surgery.

Identify Your Caregiver

Your caregiver plays an important role in your care. Before your surgery, you and your caregiver will learn about your surgery from your healthcare providers. After your surgery, your caregiver will take you home when you’re discharged from the hospital. They’ll also help you care for yourself at home.

For Caregivers

‌  Caring for a person going through cancer treatment comes with many responsibilities. MSK offers resources and support to help you manage them. For information, visit www.mskcc.org/caregivers or read A Guide for Caregivers.

Complete a Health Care Proxy Form

If you have not already filled out a Health Care Proxy form, we recommend you do now. If you already filled one out or have any other advance directives, bring them to your next appointment.

A health care proxy is a legal document. It says who will speak for you if you cannot communicate for yourself. This person is called your health care agent.

  • For information about health care proxies and other advance directives, read Advance Care Planning.
  • For information about being a health care agent, read How to Be a Health Care Agent.
  • If you have more questions about filling out a Health Care Proxy form, talk with your healthcare provider.

Do breathing and coughing exercises

Practice taking deep breaths and coughing before your surgery. Your healthcare provider will give you an incentive spirometer to help expand your lungs. For more information, read the resource How To Use Your Incentive Spirometer.

Exercise

Exercising will help your body get into its best condition for your surgery and make your recovery faster and easier.

Try to do aerobic exercise every day. Aerobic exercise is any exercise that makes your heart beat faster, such as walking, swimming, or biking. If it’s cold outside, use stairs in your home or go to a mall or shopping center.

Follow a Healthy Diet

Follow a well-balanced, healthy diet before your surgery. If you need help with your diet, talk with your healthcare provider about meeting with a clinical dietitian nutritionist.

Buy a 4% Chlorhexidine Gluconate (CHG) Solution Antiseptic Skin Cleanser (Such As Hibiclens®)

4% CHG solution is a skin cleanser that kills germs for 24 hours after you use it. Showering with it before your surgery will help lower your risk of infection after surgery. You can buy a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser at your local pharmacy without a prescription.

7 days before your surgery

Follow Your Healthcare Provider’s Instructions for Taking Aspirin

If you take aspirin or a medication that contains aspirin, you may need to change your dose or stop taking it 7 days before your surgery. Aspirin can cause bleeding.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Do not stop taking aspirin unless they tell you to.

For more information, read Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E.

Stop Taking Vitamin E, Multivitamins, Herbal Remedies, and Other Dietary Supplements

Stop taking vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements 7 days before your surgery. These things can cause bleeding.

If your healthcare provider gives you other instructions, follow those instead.

For more information, read Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment.

2 days before your surgery

Stop Taking Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Stop taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®), 2 days before your surgery. NSAIDs can cause bleeding.

If your healthcare provider gives you other instructions, follow those instead.

For more information, read Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E.

1 day before your surgery

Note the Time of Your Surgery

A staff member from the Admitting Office will call you after the day before your surgery. If your surgery is scheduled for a Monday, they’ll call you the Friday before. If you do not get a call by , call 212-639-5014.

The staff member will tell you what time to arrive at the hospital for your surgery. They’ll also remind you where to go.

Shower With a 4% CHG Solution Antiseptic Skin Cleanser (Such As Hibiclens)

The night before your surgery, shower with a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser.

  1. Wash your hair with your usual shampoo and conditioner. Rinse your head well.
  2. Wash your face and genital (groin) area with your usual soap. Rinse your body well with warm water.
  3. Open the 4% CHG solution bottle. Pour some into your hand or a clean washcloth.
  4. Move away from the shower stream. Rub the 4% CHG solution gently over your body from your neck to your feet. Do not put it on your face or genital area.
  5. Move back into the shower stream to rinse off the 4% CHG solution. Use warm water.
  6. Dry yourself off with a clean towel.

Do not use any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, or cologne after your shower.

Instructions for Eating Before Your Surgery

‌  
Do not eat anything after midnight the night before your surgery. This includes hard candy and gum.
 

The morning of your surgery

Instructions for Drinking Before Your Surgery

‌  You can drink a total of 12 ounces of water between midnight and 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. Do not drink anything else.

Do not drink anything starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. This includes water.

Take Your Medications As Instructed

A member of your care team will tell you which medications to take the morning of your surgery. Take only those medications with a sip of water. Depending on what medications you take, this may be all, some, or none of your usual morning medications.

Shower With a 4% CHG Solution Antiseptic Skin Cleanser (Such As Hibiclens)

Shower with a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser before you leave for the hospital. Use it the same way you did the night before.

Do not put on any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, or cologne after your shower.

Things to remember

  • Wear something comfortable and loose-fitting.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead. Wearing contact lenses during surgery can damage your eyes.
  • Don’t wear any metal objects. Remove all jewelry, including body piercings. The equipment used during your surgery can cause burns if it touches metal.
  • Leave valuable items at home.
  • If you’re menstruating (have your monthly period), use a sanitary pad, not a tampon. You’ll get disposable underwear, as well as a pad if needed.

What to bring

  • Your breathing device for sleep apnea (such as your CPAP device), if you have one.
  • Your incentive spirometer, if you have one.
  • Your Health Care Proxy form and other advance directives, if you completed them.
  • Your cell phone and charger.
  • Only the money you may want for small purchases (such as a newspaper).
  • A case for your personal items (such as eyeglasses, hearing aid(s), dentures, prosthetic device(s), wig, and religious articles), if you have one.
  • This guide. Your healthcare team will use it to teach you how to care for yourself after surgery.

Once you’re in the hospital

You’ll be asked to say and spell your name and birth date many times. This is for your safety. People with the same or a similar name may be having surgery on the same day.

When it’s time to change for surgery, you’ll get a hospital gown, robe, and nonskid socks to wear.

Meet With a Nurse

You’ll meet with a nurse before surgery. Tell them the dose of any medications you took after midnight and the time you took them. Make sure to include prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.

Your nurse may place an intravenous (IV) line in one of your veins, usually in your arm or hand. If your nurse does not place the IV, your anesthesiologist will do it in the operating room.

Meet With an Anesthesiologist

You’ll also meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery. They will:

  • Review your medical history with you.
  • Ask you if you’ve had any problems with anesthesia in the past, including nausea or pain.
  • Talk with you about your comfort and safety during your surgery.
  • Talk with you about the kind of anesthesia you’ll get.
  • Answer your questions about your anesthesia.

Your doctor or anesthesiologist may also talk with you about placing an epidural catheter (thin, flexible tube) in your spine (back). An epidural catheter is another way to give you pain medication after your surgery.

Get Ready For Your Surgery

When it’s time for your surgery, you’ll remove your eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, prosthetic devices, wig, and religious articles.

You’ll either walk into the operating room or a staff member will bring you there on a stretcher. A member of your care team will help you onto a bed. They will put compression boots on your lower legs. These gently inflate and deflate to help blood flow in your legs.

Once you’re comfortable, your anesthesiologist will give you anesthesia through your IV to make you fall asleep. You’ll also get fluids through your IV during and after your surgery.

During your surgery

After you’re fully asleep, a breathing tube will be placed through your mouth and into your windpipe to help you breathe. A urinary (Foley) catheter will also be placed to drain urine (pee) from your bladder.

Once your surgery is finished, your incision will be closed with staples or sutures (stitches). You may also have Steri-Strips (thin pieces of surgical tape) or Dermabond® (surgical glue) over your incisions. Your incisions may be covered with a bandage.

Your breathing tube is usually taken out while you’re still in the operating room.

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Recovering After Your Surgery

This section will help you know what to expect after your surgery. You’ll learn how to safely recover from your surgery both in the hospital and at home.

As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

In the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) or recovery room

When you wake up after your surgery, you’ll be in the PACU or your recovery room. A nurse will be keeping track of your body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. You may be getting oxygen through a thin tube that rests below your nose or a mask that covers your nose and mouth. You’ll also have compression boots on your lower legs.

Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may stay in the PACU overnight. After your stay in the PACU, a staff member will take you to your hospital room. Soon after you arrive in your room, a staff member will help you out of bed and into a chair.

Your nurse will tell you how to recover from your surgery. Below are examples of ways you can help yourself recover safely.

  • You’ll be encouraged to walk with the help of your nurse or physical therapist. We’ll give you medication to relieve pain. Walking helps lower your risk for blood clots and pneumonia. It also helps stimulate your bowels so they start working again.
  • Use your incentive spirometer. This will help your lungs expand, which prevents pneumonia. For more information, read How To Use Your Incentive Spirometer.

Commonly asked questions: During your hospital stay

Will I have pain after my surgery?

You may have some pain after your surgery, especially in the first few days. Your healthcare providers will ask you about your pain often and give you medication to manage your pain as needed. If your pain isn’t any better, tell one of your healthcare providers. It’s important to control your pain so you can cough, breathe deeply, use your incentive spirometer, and get out of bed and walk.

What side effects can I expect after my surgery?

It’s common to have some discomfort in your abdomen and shoulders after surgery. This is from the air that was pumped into your abdomen during surgery. Your discomfort should go away after a few days. Walking around can help with this. You should also drink 8 (8-ounce) glasses (2 liters) of liquids a day and make sure to take the stool softeners you received to prevent constipation.

You may also have normal symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to manage these symptoms.

What side effects can I expect after my D&C?

If you also had a D&C, you may have some vaginal spotting or light bleeding. Wear a pad or panty liner. Don’t use tampons or place anything in your vagina until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. Don’t have sexual intercourse (sex) until your healthcare provider say it’s OK. If you’re having heavy bleeding, such as bleeding through a pad every 1 to 2 hours, call your healthcare provider right away.

Will I be able to eat?

Yes, you’ll be able to eat a regular diet as tolerated. Start with foods that are soft and easy to digest, such as apple sauce and chicken noodle soup. Eat small meals frequently, then advance to regular foods.

If you have bloating, gas, or cramps, limit high-fiber foods such as whole grain breads and cereal, nuts, seeds, salads, fresh fruit, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Commonly Asked Questions: At Home

What’s the Recovery Tracker?

We want to know how you’re feeling after you leave the hospital. To help us continue caring for you, we’ll send questions to your MyMSK account every day for 10 days after you leave the hospital. These questions are known as your Recovery Tracker.

Fill out your Recovery Tracker every day before midnight (12 a.m.). It only takes 2 to 3 minutes. Your answers to these questions will help us understand how you’re feeling and what you need.

Based on your answers, we may reach out to you for more information or ask you to call your surgeon’s office. You can always contact your surgeon’s office if you have any questions. For more information, read About Your Recovery Tracker.

Will I have pain when I am home?

People have pain or discomfort for different lengths of time. You may still have some pain when you go home and will probably be taking pain medication.

Follow these guidelines to help manage your pain at home.

  • Take your medications as directed and as needed.
  • Call your healthcare provider if the medication prescribed for you does not help your pain.
  • Do not drive or drink alcohol while you’re taking prescription pain medication. Some prescription pain medications can make you drowsy (very sleepy). Alcohol can make the drowsiness worse.
  • As your incision(s) heal, you’ll have less pain and need less pain medication. An over-the-counter pain reliever will help with aches and discomfort. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) are examples of over-the-counter pain relievers.
    • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for stopping your prescription pain medication.
    • Do not take too much of any medication. Follow the instructions on the label or from your healthcare provider.
    • Read the labels on all the medications you’re taking. This is very important if you’re taking acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is an ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescription medications. Taking too much can harm your liver. Do not take more than one medication that has acetaminophen without talking with a member of your care team.
  • Pain medication should help you get back to your normal activities. Take enough medication to do your activities and exercises comfortably. It’s normal for your pain to increase a little as you start to be more active.
  • Keep track of when you take your pain medication. It works best 30 to 45 minutes after you take it. Taking it when you first have pain is better than waiting for the pain to get worse.

Some prescription pain medications (such as opioids) may cause constipation (having fewer bowel movements than usual).

How can I prevent constipation?

Talk with your healthcare provider about how to prevent and manage constipation. You can also follow the guidelines below.

  • Go to the bathroom at the same time every day. Your body will get used to going at that time. If you feel like you need to go, though, don’t put it off.
  • Try to use the bathroom 5 to 15 minutes after meals. After breakfast is a good time to go. That’s when the reflexes in your colon are strongest.
  • Exercise, if you can. Walking is an excellent form of exercise.
  • Drink 8 to 10 (8-ounce) glasses (2 liters) of liquids daily, if you can.
    • Choose liquids such as water, juices (such as prune juice), soups, and ice cream shakes.
    • Avoid liquids with caffeine (such as coffee and soda). Caffeine can pull fluid out of your body.
  • Slowly increase the fiber in your diet to 25 to 35 grams per day. If you have an ostomy or have had recent bowel surgery, check with your healthcare provider before making any changes in your diet. Foods high in fiber include:
    • Bran
    • Whole-grain cereals and breads
    • Unpeeled fruits and vegetables
    • Mixed green salads
    • Apricots, figs, and raisins
  • Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat constipation. Check with your healthcare provider before taking any medications for constipation, especially if you have an ostomy or have had bowel surgery. Follow the instructions on the label or from your healthcare provider. Examples of over-the-counter medications for constipation include:
    • Docusate sodium (Colace®). This is a stool softener (medication that makes your bowel movements softer) that causes few side effects. You can use it to help prevent constipation. Don’t take it with mineral oil.
    • Polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX®). This is a laxative (medication that causes bowel movements) that causes few side effects. Take it with 8 ounces (1 cup) of a liquid. Only take it if you’re already constipated.
    • Senna (Senokot®). This is a stimulant laxative, which can cause cramping. It’s best to take it at bedtime. Only take it if you’re already constipated.
    If any of these medications cause diarrhea (loose, watery bowel movements), stop taking them. You can start again if needed.

For more information, read the resource Constipation.

Can I shower?

You can shower 24 hours after your surgery. Taking a warm shower is relaxing and can help decrease muscle aches. If you have a square white bandage (Primapore® bandage) over your incision, take it off when you shower.

When you shower, use soap to gently wash your incision. Pat the areas dry with a towel after showering. Leave your incision uncovered unless there’s drainage. If you have drainage, place a new bandage over your incision. Call your healthcare provider if you see any redness or drainage from your incision.

Don’t take tub baths until you discuss it with your healthcare provider at your first appointment after surgery.

How do I care for my incisions?

You’ll have several small incisions on your abdomen. The incisions will be closed with Steri-Strips or Dermabond. You may also have square white Primapore bandages on your incisions. You can remove these in the shower 24 hours after your surgery. You should clean your incisions with soap and water.

If any fluid is draining from your incisions, write down the amount and color. Call your healthcare provider’s office and tell the nurse about any drainage from your incision.

If you go home with Steri-Strips on your incisions, they’ll loosen and fall off by themselves. If you go home with Dermabond on your incision, it will also loosen and peel off by itself. If the Steri-Strips and Dermabond haven’t fallen off within 10 days, you can remove them.

When can I resume sexual activity?

Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can resume sexual activity during your first follow-up visit after surgery. Don’t put anything in your vagina or have vaginal sex until your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

When is it safe for me to drive?

You can start driving again 2 weeks after surgery, as long as you aren’t taking pain medication that may make you drowsy.

What exercises can I do?

Doing aerobic exercise, such as walking and stair climbing, will help you gain strength and feel better. Gradually increase the distance you walk. Climb stairs slowly, resting or stopping as needed.

Ask your healthcare provider before starting more demanding exercises.

Will I be able to travel?

Yes, you can travel. If you’re traveling by plane within a few weeks after your surgery, make sure you get up and walk every hour. Be sure to stretch your legs, drink plenty of liquids, and keep your feet elevated when possible.

When can I return to work?

The time it takes to return to work depends on the type of work you do, the type of surgery you had, and how fast your body heals. Most people can return to work about 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery.

When can I lift heavy objects?

Ask your healthcare provider when it’s safe for you to lift heavy objects after your surgery. Normally, you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 5 to 10 pounds (2.3 to 4.5 kilograms) for at least 4 weeks after your surgery.

When is my first appointment after my surgery?

Your first appointment after surgery will be in 2 to 4 weeks after you leave the hospital. Your nurse will give you instructions on how to make this appointment, including the phone number to call.

How can I cope with my feelings?

After surgery for a serious illness, you may have new and upsetting feelings. Many people say they felt weepy, sad, worried, nervous, irritable, and angry at one time or another. You may find that you can’t control some of these feelings. If this happens, it’s a good idea to seek emotional support.

The first step in coping is to talk about how you feel. Family and friends can help. Your nurse, doctor, and social worker can reassure, support, and guide you. It’s always a good idea to let these professionals know how you, your family, and your friends are feeling emotionally. Many resources are available to patients and their families. Whether you’re in the hospital or at home, the nurses, doctors, and social workers are here to help you and your family and friends handle the emotional aspects of your illness.

You may also find it comforting to speak with a cancer survivor or caregiver who has been through a similar treatment. Through our Patient and Caregiver Support Program, you’re able to speak with former patients and caregivers. For more information, call 212-639-5007.

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When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Call your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever of 100.5 °F (38 °C) or higher.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have pain that doesn’t get better with pain medication.
  • The area around your incision is getting more red.
  • The area around your incision is starting to swell or the swelling around your incision is getting worse.
  • You have discharge from your incision.
  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding.
  • Your calves or thighs are swollen or tender.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You don’t have a bowel movement for 2 days.
  • You have nausea or vomiting.
  • You have diarrhea (loose or watery bowel movements).
  • You have any questions or concerns.

Contact information

Monday through Friday from to , call your healthcare provider’s office.

After , during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask to speak to the person on call for your healthcare provider.

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Support Services

This section has a list of support services. They may help you as you get ready for your surgery and recover after your surgery.

As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

    MSK Support Services

    Visit the Cancer Types section of MSK’s website at www.mskcc.org/types for more information.

    Admitting Office
    212-639-7606
    Call if you have questions about your hospital admission, such as asking for a private room.

    Anesthesia
    212-639-6840
    Call if you have questions about anesthesia.

    Blood Donor Room
    212-639-7643
    Call for information if you’re interested in donating blood or platelets.

    Bobst International Center
    888-675-7722
    We welcome patients from around the world and offer many services to help. If you’re an international patient, call for help arranging your care.

    Caregivers Clinic
    646-888-0200
    www.mskcc.org/caregivers
    At MSK, the Caregivers Clinic provides support specifically for caregivers who are having difficulty coping with the demands of being a caregiver. For more information, call Dr. Allison Applebaum’s office at 646-888-0200.

    Counseling Center
    646-888-0200
    Many people find that counseling helps them. Our counseling center offers counseling for individuals, couples, families, and groups. We can also prescribe medications to help if you feel anxious or depressed. To make an appointment, ask your healthcare provider for a referral or call the number above.

    Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program
    646-888-5076
    Cancer and cancer treatments can affect your sexual health, fertility, or both. Our Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program can help with sexual health problems, such as premature menopause or fertility issues. We can help before, during, or after your treatment. Call for more information or to make an appointment.

    Food Pantry Program
    646-888-8055
    We give food to people in need during their cancer treatment. For more information, talk with your healthcare provider or call the number above.

    Integrative Medicine Service
    www.mskcc.org/integrativemedicine
    Our Integrative Medicine Service offers many services to complement (go along with) traditional medical care, including music therapy, mind/body therapies, dance and movement therapy, yoga, and touch therapy. To schedule an appointment for these services, call 646-449-1010.

    You can also schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in the Integrative Medicine Service. They will work with you to come up with a plan for creating a healthy lifestyle and managing side effects. To make an appointment, call 646-608-8550.

    Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program
    646-888-6024
    Cancer and cancer treatments can affect your sexual health, fertility, or both. Our Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program can help with sexual health problems, such as erectile dysfunction (ED). We can help before, during, or after your treatment. Call for more information or to make an appointment.

    MSK Library
    library.mskcc.org
    212-639-7439
    You can visit our library website or call to talk with the library reference staff. They can help you find more information about a type of cancer. You can also visit LibGuides on MSK’s library website at libguides.mskcc.org

    Nutrition Services
    www.mskcc.org/nutrition
    212-639-7312
    Our Nutrition Service offers nutritional counseling with one of our clinical dietitian nutritionists. Your clinical dietitian nutritionist will talk with you about your eating habits. They can also give advice on what to eat during and after treatment. To make an appointment, ask a member of your care team for a referral or call the number above.

    Patient and Caregiver Education
    www.mskcc.org/pe
    Visit our Patient and Caregiver Education website to search for educational resources, videos, and online programs.

    Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program
    212-639-5007
    It can be comforting to talk with someone who has been through a treatment like yours. You can talk with a former MSK patient or caregiver through our Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program. Your conversations are private. They can be in person or over the phone.

    Patient Billing
    646-227-3378
    Call if you have questions about preauthorization with your insurance company. This is also called preapproval.

    Patient Representative Office
    212-639-7202
    Call if you have questions about the Health Care Proxy form or concerns about your care.

    Perioperative Nurse Liaison
    212-639-5935
    Call if you have questions about MSK releasing any information while you’re having surgery.

    Private Duty Nurses and Companions
    917-862-6373
    You can request private nurses or companions to care for you in the hospital and at home. Call for more information.

    Resources for Life After Cancer (RLAC) Program
    646-888-8106
    At MSK, care does not end after your treatment. The RLAC Program is for patients and their families who have finished treatment.

    This program has many services. We offer seminars, workshops, support groups, and counseling on life after treatment. We can also help with insurance and employment issues.

    Social Work
    www.mskcc.org/socialwork
    212-639-7020
    Social workers help patients, families, and friends deal with common issues for people who have cancer. They provide individual counseling and support groups throughout your treatment. They can help you communicate with children and other family members.

    Our social workers can also help refer you to community agencies and programs. They also have information about financial resources, if you’re having trouble paying your bills.

    Spiritual Care
    212-639-5982
    Our chaplains (spiritual counselors) are available to listen, help support family members, and pray. They can contact community clergy or faith groups, or simply be a comforting companion and a spiritual presence. Anyone can ask for spiritual support. You do not have to have a religious affiliation (connection to a religion).

    MSK’s interfaith chapel is located near Memorial Hospital’s main lobby. It’s open 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency, call 212-639-2000. Ask for the chaplain on call.

    Tobacco Treatment Program
    www.mskcc.org/tobacco
    212-610-0507
    MSK has specialists who can help you quit smoking. For more information about our Tobacco Treatment Program, call 212-610-0507. You can also ask your nurse about the program.

    Virtual Programs
    www.mskcc.org/vp
    Our Virtual Programs offer online education and support for patients and caregivers. These are live sessions where you can talk or just listen. You can learn about your diagnosis, what to expect during treatment, and how to prepare for your cancer care.

    Sessions are private, free, and led by experts. Visit our website for more information about Virtual Programs or to register.

    External support services

    Access-A-Ride
    web.mta.info/nyct/paratran/guide.htm
    877-337-2017
    In New York City, the MTA offers a shared ride, door-to-door service for people with disabilities who can’t take the public bus or subway.

    Air Charity Network
    www.aircharitynetwork.org
    877-621-7177
    Provides travel to treatment centers.

    American Cancer Society (ACS)
    www.cancer.org
    800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
    Offers a variety of information and services, including Hope Lodge, a free place for patients and caregivers to stay during cancer treatment.

    Cancer and Careers
    www.cancerandcareers.org
    A resource for education, tools, and events for employees with cancer.

    CancerCare
    www.cancercare.org
    800-813-4673
    275 Seventh Avenue (Between West 25th & 26th Streets)
    New York, NY 10001
    Provides counseling, support groups, educational workshops, publications, and financial assistance.

    Cancer Support Community
    www.cancersupportcommunity.org
    Provides support and education to people affected by cancer.

    Caregiver Action Network
    www.caregiveraction.org
    800-896-3650
    Provides education and support for people who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability.

    Corporate Angel Network
    www.corpangelnetwork.org
    866-328-1313
    Offers free travel to treatment across the country using empty seats on corporate jets.

    Gilda’s Club
    www.gildasclubnyc.org
    212-647-9700
    A place where men, women, and children living with cancer find social and emotional support through networking, workshops, lectures, and social activities.

    Good Days
    www.mygooddays.org
    877-968-7233
    Offers financial assistance to pay for copayments during treatment. Patients must have medical insurance, meet the income criteria, and be prescribed medication that’s part of the Good Days formulary.

    Healthwell Foundation
    www.healthwellfoundation.org
    800-675-8416
    Provides financial assistance to cover copayments, health care premiums, and deductibles for certain medications and therapies.

    Joe’s House
    www.joeshouse.org
    877-563-7468
    Provides a list of places to stay near treatment centers for people with cancer and their families.

    LGBT Cancer Project
    http://lgbtcancer.com/
    Provides support and advocacy for the LGBT community, including online support groups and a database of LGBT-friendly clinical trials.

    LIVESTRONG Fertility
    www.livestrong.org/we-can-help/fertility-services
    855-744-7777
    Provides reproductive information and support to cancer patients and survivors whose medical treatments have risks associated with infertility.

    Look Good Feel Better Program
    www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org
    800-395-LOOK (800-395-5665)
    This program offers workshops to learn things you can do to help you feel better about your appearance. For more information or to sign up for a workshop, call the number above or visit the program’s website.

    National Cancer Institute
    www.cancer.gov
    800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)

    National Cancer Legal Services Network
    www.nclsn.org
    Free cancer legal advocacy program.

    National LGBT Cancer Network
    www.cancer-network.org
    Provides education, training, and advocacy for LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk.

    Needy Meds
    www.needymeds.org
    Lists Patient Assistance Programs for brand and generic name medications.

    NYRx
    www.nyrxplan.com
    Provides prescription benefits to eligible employees and retirees of public sector employers in New York State.

    Partnership for Prescription Assistance
    www.pparx.org
    888-477-2669
    Helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get free or low-cost medications.

    Patient Access Network Foundation
    www.panfoundation.org
    866-316-7263
    Provides assistance with copayments for patients with insurance.

    Patient Advocate Foundation
    www.patientadvocate.org
    800-532-5274
    Provides access to care, financial assistance, insurance assistance, job retention assistance, and access to the national underinsured resource directory.

    RxHope
    www.rxhope.com
    877-267-0517
    Provides assistance to help people get medications that they have trouble affording.

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    Educational Resources

    This section has the educational resources mentioned in this guide. They will help you get ready for your surgery and recover after your surgery.

    As you read through these resources, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

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