What is cancer surgery?
Surgery is a common treatment for cancer. Sometimes it is used by itself, and sometimes it is used alongside other cancer treatments.
Cancer surgery is a medical treatment (sometimes called an operation) that is performed by a surgeon. The aim of cancer surgery is to remove cancer from your body. Cancer surgery can also be used to repair a part of the body that has been affected by cancer.
Your surgeon will talk to you in detail about whether or not cancer surgery is appropriate for you. The most common forms of cancer surgery include:
- Bile duct surgery
- Gallbladder surgery
- Oesophageal surgery
- Pancreas surgery
- Retroperitoneal mass surgery
- Skin cancer surgery
- Small and large bowel surgery
- Spleen surgery
- Stomach surgery
Why do I need cancer surgery?
In many cases, surgery is an effective cancer treatment option. Cancer surgery is often used to:
- Confirm your diagnosis. Your surgeon may use a surgical procedure called a biopsy to remove part or all of a tumour. The sample will then be used to confirm if you really do have cancer.
- Examine the size of a tumour and determine if it has spread.
- Treat and remove small cancers.
- Remove large sections of a tumour if it is not possible to remove all of it.
- Repair parts of the body that have been affected by cancer (reconstructive surgery).
What happens during cancer surgery?
What happens during your surgery will depend on the type of cancer that you have, and where it is located. Common surgical techniques used for treating cancer include:
- Keyhole surgery, where your surgeon makes a few small incisions into your body and uses a light, camera, and small medical instruments to complete the procedure.
- Open surgery, where your surgeon makes a single, larger cut into your body and removes cancerous tissue.
- Laser surgery, where your surgeon uses a laser to remove or destroy cancerous tissue.
- Cryosurgery, where liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the skin to freeze and kill cancerous tissue (used in skin cancer treatments).
Will I stay in hospital?
Your surgeon will talk to you about whether or not you will need to stay in hospital. Some treatments are conducted in day surgery, while others need you to stay in hospital for several nights. The type of surgery you are having, alongside the speed of your recovery and whether or not you have someone to help you at home will all affect the length of your hospital stay.
What are the possible risks and side-effects?
All surgery involves a degree of risk. Your surgeon will give you clear information about the possible risks and side-effects related to your cancer surgery. Possible side-effects from cancer surgery can be pain and discomfort, as well as reactions to the general anaesthetic such as; nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
Complications such as infection, bleeding and blood clots can also occur after surgery. Most complication are minor and can be easily treated. You should talk to your surgeon about the risks of your surgery and any concerns that you may have.
How long will it take to recover?
Recovery from cancer surgery can take less than a week or more than three months. Your recovery time will depend on what type of surgery you have, as well as your overall health before surgery. Your surgeon will talk to you about what to expect with your recovery process. It’s important to follow your surgeon’s recommendations and give yourself time to recover properly.