What is Surgery?
Surgery is the operation to repair or remove part of your body to diagnose or treat cancer. For many forms of cancer the surgical removal of the primary tumor is crucial if long-term remission is to occur. Usually, anti-angiogenesis drugs given prior to cancer surgery may improve the chances of a long-term remission. These drugs would also theoretically be of value in the post of operative setting, though they may slow the rate of healing. However, surgery suppresses important immune functions needed to kill metastatic tumor cells. The patient should consider taking supplements that enhance immune function, such as melatonin, lactoferrin, and garlic, before and after surgery. Surgery is also the oldest form of cancer treatment, and offers the greatest chance for cure for many types of cancer, especially those that have not spread to other parts of the body.
- Diagnostic Surgery
This type of surgery is used to get a tissue sample to tell whether or not cancer is present or to tell what type of cancer it is. The diagnosis of cancer is often made by looking at the cells under a microscope. Many methods are used to get a sample of cells from a suspicious-looking area.
- Staging Surgery
Staging surgery is done to find out how much cancer there is and how far it has spread. While the physical exam and the results of lab and imaging tests can help figure out the clinical stage of the cancer, the surgical stage (also called the pathologic stage) is usually a more exact measure of how far the cancer has spread. For more information, please see the American Cancer Society document called staging.
- Curative Surgery
Curative surgery is done when a tumor appears to be confined to one area, and it is likely that all of the tumor can be removed. Curative surgery can be the main treatment for the cancer. It may be used alone or along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which can be given before or after the operation. Sometimes radiation therapy is actually used during an operation. This is called intraoperative radiation therapy.
- Debulking Surgery
Debulking surgery is done to remove some, but not all, of the tumor. It is done when removing all of the tumor would cause too much damage to an organ or near-by tissues. In these cases, the doctor may remove as much of the tumor as possible and then try to treat what's left with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Debulking surgery is commonly used for advanced cancer of the ovary.
- Palliative Surgery
This type of surgery is used to treat complications of advanced cancer. It is not intended to cure the cancer. Palliative surgery can also be used to correct a problem that is causing discomfort or disability. For example, some cancers in the abdomen may grow large enough to obstruct the intestine. If this happens, surgery can be used to remove the blockage. Palliative surgery may also be used to treat pain when the pain is hard to control by other means.
The side effects of surgery include:
Pain is a common side effect of most operations. Some cause more pain than others do.
The site of your surgery can become infected.
- Loss of Organ Function
In order to remove your cancer, the surgeon may need to remove an entire organ. For example, your kidney may need to be removed if you have kidney cancer. For some such operations, the remaining organ can function sufficiently to compensate for the loss, but in other situations you may be left with impairments. For instance, removal of a lung may cause difficulty breathing.
- BleedingAll operations carry a risk of bleeding.
- Blood ClotsWhile you're recovering from surgery, you're at an increased risk of developing a blood clot. Though the risk is small, this complication can be serious. Blood clots most commonly occur in the legs and may cause some swelling and pain. A blood clot that breaks off and travels to the lung could cause a pulmonary embolism, a dangerous and sometimes deadly condition.