Surgery is an integral part of staging procedures for ovarian, endometrial, and vulvar cancers, with a move toward surgicopathologic rather than clinical staging in cervical cancer. Morbidity can be reduced without compromising patient cure by individualizing surgery for patients with early vulvar cancer, and reproductive potential can be maintained in some women with early ovarian cancer. The place of prophylactic oophorectomy and primary and secondary surgery in ovarian cancer remain controversial and await prospective study. Recent developments in laparoscopic techniques have been applied to a number of problems in gynecologic cancer surgery, and the feasibility of laparoscopic lymphadenectomy and radical pelvic surgery has been demonstrated. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that the tenets of surgical oncology are not sacrificed in order to offer minimal-access surgery to women with gynecologic cancer.