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Cancer Glossary Cancer Diet Guide Support Groups

Cancer Surgery

Surgical therapy is often a choice for patients with some type of cancer.  It is often used as a measure to diagnose or treat cancer. In certain circumstances, it can be used to prevent the development of the tumor in people at high risk.  If cancer has not spread, removal through surgery can be a way to cure the patient. 

Preparation for The Procedure:  In preparation, the patient should become well informed about what is going to occur.  It is important to talk to your doctor about the treatment options, and to discuss the outcome with other patients who have experienced surgery for the same condition.  You should get pre-approval from your insurance company and fill out an informed consent form.  Any pre-operative testing must be scheduled and performed.  Your doctor may also ask you to make some lifestyle changes in preparation for the surgery such as stopping smoking or losing weight.  In addition, you may need to do certain things such as not eating for a period of time prior to the surgery.   

Your surgeon prepares for the surgery by reviewing the results of your preoperative tests.  He or she will also review your file for the different medications you currently take and any possible allergic reactions so he can be prepared for the surgery. 

Procedure:  At the beginning of the surgery, the patient will usually receive some sort of anesthesia.  The type will depend on the operation you will be receiving.  The actual operation will be different based on the type of cancer being treated and the kind of surgery that is being performed.  After the surgery has been completed, there will be a recovery period. 

Sometimes drains or tubes will stick out of the area of the incision to help excess fluids drain away from your body.  If you have one or more drains, they will be removed by the doctor after they are no longer needed to collect fluid.  This may be while you are still in the hospital or you may go home return to your doctor's office in a few days where they will be removed.   

Techniques Used:  There are a number of surgical techniques that may be used; it depends on the location and the type of cancer surgery you are subject to.  Laser surgery is often used when extreme precision is required, such as in the area of the eye. Electrosurgery uses electrical current that is at a high frequency and is often used for certain skin cancers.  Cryosurgery is sometimes used to treat conditions before they become cancerous.  It includes the use of a liquid nitrogen spray that freezes cancerous cells so that they will die.  Laparoscopic surgery uses a very thin tube inserted through a small hole.  Microscopically controlled surgery uses a microscope to examine the area of the skin that is shaved away layer by layer until the cancerous cells are removed.  Thorascopic surgery is often used in the lungs as it includes a camera so the doctor can see what is going on in the chest. 

Recovery Time:  This period will be different depending on the type of surgery you had and the kind of anesthesia that was administered.  You may be in a recovery area for a while before you are taken to a room for an overnight stay, or you may be allowed to go home after you have been in the recovery room without needing a longer hospital stay. You will be asked to eat and drink as part of the process of recovering from your surgical therapy.  This helps the medical team to assess how well you are recovering.  Many people are on a clear liquid diet to begin with until the bowel begins normal function again. 

Risks and Side Effects:  These depend on the type of surgery, the health of the patient, and the experience of the surgeon.  You should fully discuss the risks and side effects of your particular surgery before you agree to it.