Surgery is a local cancer
treatment that aims at removing the tumor, affected nodes and possible metastases. The procedure can be
called ablation or excision of the cancerous tumor; regardless, the objective of the surgeons is to get rid
of the cancer for good, which is what the patient desires.
Surgery is one of the
most ancient cancer therapies. For many years, it was the only treatment of malignant tumors. Today, it still
remains the main treatment, offer great survival rates in many cases. The outcome of the therapy depends on
many aspects such as the type and stage of the tumor, and the ability of the surgeon. The more experienced
and clever is the surgeon the more possibility of success. In many part of the world there are very skilled
cancer surgeons to choose from.
Surgery may be used alone
or in combination with other treatments. In most cases, surgeries are recommended for localized cancers
discovered at an early stage. In this case, the objective is to cure the cancer when it has moderate
characteristics (size, stage, grade ...) and the total removal of the tumor is possible. It is therefore
important to detect the disease before it has spread either locally or elsewhere in the
Other therapies that
surgery can be combined with include radiotherapy, which is another local treatment of cancer; chemotherapy,
drug treatments. Unlike surgical therapy, chemo is a systemic or general treatment that affects throughout
the body, including possible cancerous cells not detected by the tests carried out during the diagnostic
When performed before
surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are called pre-operative or neo-adjuvant. They aim in particular to
reduce the size of the tumor in order to facilitate or make possible the surgical removal of the tumor. In
fact, even after patients undergo these therapies some surgeons are still unable to get rid of certain
When chemotherapy or
radiation therapy is prescribed after surgery the treatment is called post-operative or adjuvant treatments.
They aim in particular to eliminate cancer cells that remain in the whole body (chemotherapy) or at the area
affected by the tumor (radiotherapy), in order to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Before and after
Before a cancer patient
going on the operating table, several steps are necessary: anesthesiology, preoperative exams, shaving, and
Preparation: since most cancer
surgeries require general anesthesia, you may need to meet with the anesthetist a few days before your
surgical procedure. To choose anesthetic techniques best suited to your case, the anesthesiologist will ask
you questions about your medical and surgical history, your possible allergies, and others. And then
preoperative exams may be prescribed.
Exams: Before surgery, it is
crucial to perform a blood test to measure various parameters: blood type, also called blood group; complete
blood count (CBC); coagulation tests such as prothrombin time (PT), activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), and
thrombin time (TT); blood sugar levels; and
others. If necessary, you may be required to undergo a chest radiograph, also called chest X-ray;
electrocardiogram, to assess the electrical activity of the heart. Before your cancer surgery, the surgeon
may also recommend you recent medical imaging examinations so that he can locate the tumor as accurately as
Shaving: to prevent your hair
from falling in the surgical wounds, you are asked to shave the area to be operated on or before the day of
the surgical intervention.
Fasting: It is a requirement to
be fasting before surgery under general anesthesia, cancer surgery or not. Your surgeon will tell you to not
eat, (almost) not drink, and not smoke during the 12 hours preceding the surgical procedure. One of the
reasons surgeons require these is to prevent vomiting during the surgery.
After the surgery some
modalities are important: Recovery Room, Pain control, and others
Room: When finished with
surgical procedure, you will leave the operating room. You will then be transported (e) in a recovery room.
Constant monitoring is important because it is at this time that anesthetic accidents may occur. You're back
(s) in your hospital room when the anesthetist feels that you have found a level of consciousness and
sufficient reflexes. Do not be surprised if you temporary lose your memory; certain drugs used by surgeons or
anesthetists cause amnesia! Although rare, drug-induced amnesia can last months, possibly years.
control: To reduce postoperative
pain, your surgeon will prescribe painkillers for several days, first intravenously and then orally. Take
your medications as recommended. You will also prescribed medications against possible infection.
: To close surgical wounds, surgeon use either stitches (sutures), staples, or tape strips. It is important to keep
the operated clean and dry. If some disintegrate or fall on their own, the remaining must be removed by the surgeon
or a health professional (nurse) a few days or weeks after the operation. As a patient, you should never take off
your stitches yourself.