What is cancer surgery?
Cancer surgery is the removal of cancer from the patient’s body by a specialist surgeon. When the cancer is removed, any nearby tissue that may contain cancer cells may also be removed. Surgery may also be used to prevent, diagnose or stage cancer.
Anesthesia is used during surgery to make the patient unconscious or unconscious. These anesthetics can be:
- Local: numbness in a small part of the body.
- Regional: numbness in part of the body (a leg or arm).
- General: total insensibility and loss of consciousness.
Why is it performed?
Cancer surgery may be performed to treat, prevent, diagnose or stage cancer. There are also other cases, in which it can relieve discomfort, for example.
- Surgery to diagnose cancer: removing tissue for testing. The procedure is known as a biopsy.
- Surgery to determine the stage of the cancer: to find out the extent of the cancer and to determine the treatment to follow.
- Curative surgery: when the cancer is in a specific area of the body and can be completely removed (in most cases).
- Palliative surgery: to treat complications caused by advanced cancer. For example, to improve a patient’s discomfort or disability. It can also be used to control pain. In short, it seeks to improve the patient’s quality of life, not to treat or cure the cancer.
- Supportive surgery: facilitates the use of other treatments in a simpler way.
- Reconstructive surgery: to improve the patient’s appearance after undergoing major cancer surgery.
- Preventive surgery: to remove body tissue that is likely to develop into cancer. It is used to reduce the risk or prevent cancer, although it cannot completely guarantee it.
Surgery can be used to treat, prevent or diagnose cancer, among others.
What does it consist of?
In many cases, surgeons use scalpels and other sharp instruments to cut parts of the body. Some of the parts that are cut are skin, muscle and sometimes bone.
Depending on the type of cancer the patient has and how advanced it is, surgery may involve:
- Removing the entire tumor: removing the cancer located in one area.
- To reduce the tumor: to remove a part of the tumor. This is used when, in case of removing the whole tumor, it could damage an organ of the body. It can be used to achieve a better performance of other treatments.
- Symptom relief: remove tumors that cause pressure or pain.
Preparing for cancer surgery?
Before cancer surgery, different tests and examinations must be performed, which will help the doctor evaluate the patient’s surgical needs. Among these common tests are:
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Chest X-ray
Often, before cancer surgery it may be necessary to not eat or drink for a period of time prior to surgery.
Care after surgery
Care after cancer surgery will vary depending on the type of surgery. The patient will probably be admitted to the hospital for a period of time after surgery. In addition, the patient will have to visit the specialist periodically to evaluate the progress or to remove sutures, for example.
Your doctor may give you a set of instructions to follow after surgery, which may include:
- Wound care instructions
- How to manage pain
- What activities you can do
- When you can return to work
Alternatives to this treatment
The appropriate cancer treatment will vary depending on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer and its location, among other factors. Surgery is especially effective when the tumor has not spread to other areas of the body and, in these cases, offers a better chance of cure. Surgery can also be used to treat problems caused by the cancer, such as removing a tumor blocking the intestine.
There are other treatments, which can be applied before, after or together with surgery:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Hormonal therapy
- Stem cell transplantation or bone marrow transplantation