When is Cancer Surgery an Option?

The quickest way of removing a tumour from the body, surgery is the oldest way of tackling a cancer. Of course surgery is the most viable option when a cancer in a relatively exposed area of the body such as the arms, legs and neck and removal in this manner has more benefits than long term damage.

A person suspected of having cancer might actually have surgery before even being diagnosed. A doctor may want to take out a very small portion of tissue in the suspected area for thorough analysis. This is known as a biopsy and can help determine not only if someone really does have a cancerous growth, but at what speed and strength that tumour is attempting to grow at. Biopsies are great in helping to avoid a patient from receiving treatment which may have negative effects.

In the majority of cases for someone getting surgery, it will be the only cancer treatment they need if the cancer happens to be concentrated to a specific area. If this isn’t the case, a combination treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy is carried out as a means of ‘flushing’ the rest of the cancer out of the body. All this depends on the evaluation that a cancer consultant would be able to provide.

Some people can also have surgery as a preventative measure in order to reduce the risk of ever getting cancer if there is a family history of relatives all having cancer in a similar area. A very famous example of this would be when the actress Angeline Jolie had a double mastectomy as a preventative surgery. Cancer surgery could also be a part of another treatment. When someone receiving radiotherapy has a central line inserted, it can be considered as having surgery too.

What happens during cancer surgery is very simple to explain. A doctor simply locates the tumour, removes it and then removes some of the tissue in the surrounding area. The removal of this outlying tissue is important because it creates what is referred to as a ‘clear margin’ and hopefully signals a complete removal of any damaging tissue.

The main risk involved with surgery is that the surgeon is dealing with a tumour that isn’t fully scoped out until entry. This means that a surgeon will remove as much as possible when treating an area with the ambition of never needing to operate again. So if a tumour is much larger upon examination than originally thought, it can lead to more complicated surgery where as much needs to be taken out without causing immediate harm or damage to surrounding organs.

Side effects of cancer surgery are very similar to any surgery. A person will be expected to have a long rest period as they let the body get used to the change and recover. The intervening period post-surgery it is common for someone to feel extremely tired, have a lack of movement and not feel hungry at all. After a few days or weeks, a person should see these temporary side effects subside and regain a level of normalcy again.