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Cancer Surgery

A great majority of cancer patients are often guided toward some type of surgical therapy, whether as a method of diagnosis or for treatment purpose.  If the cancer is small and isolated, it may be able to be wholly removed surgically. Metastatic cancers, however, are barely treated with surgery.  

 Preparation for Surgical Therapy: Preparation for surgical therapy will differ depending on the surgery to be done, but the most important thing a patient can do is to learn about that specific procedure and what is expected of them.  Many operations will require specific testing prior to the actual operation, such as x-rays and lab work.  In addition, it is a good idea to verify everything with your insurance company so that you have all the permissions and approvals in order.  Patients may be asked to stop smoking for two or more weeks prior to surgery to limit problems from nicotine, and may be asked to refrain from alcoholic beverages for a period of time prior to the surgery.  Some patients may be asked to increase their levels of exercise and activity.  Most surgeries will require that nothing is eaten or drunk for a certain number of hours before the procedure. 

Your surgeon will give you medical information about the surgery and what to expect, and will assemble his team of assistants and specialists.  He will look at your overall health history and the list of medications you are on in order to determine the kinds of anesthesia and post-operative medications he can safely give you. 

Procedure: Each surgical therapy procedure will be somewhat different but there are some things that will be similar.  For instance, the patient will be prepared for the surgery and will usually be administered either a local or a general anesthesia to limit the pain.  The techniques used and the time of each procedure may depend on the cancer being treated, the location of the surgery, and the overall health of the patient.  When the procedure has been completed, the patient will be brought to some sort of recovery area. 

Types or Techniques Used: Surgical techniques may vary based on the location and type of cancer and the reason for the surgery, for instance a biopsy may require a different technique than complete removal of a cancer.  Of course, traditional surgical methods are often used.  Some of the other methods include such things as cryosurgery where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill pre-cancerous cells.  Microscopically controlled surgery is often used for skin cancers and the individual layers of the skin are removed and examined under a microscope until the cells being viewed are no longer cancerous.  Laser surgery is a very precise technique that is often used in delicate areas such as the eye.  Laparoscopic surgery allows small incisions to be made and a very thin tube to be inserted through which the work is done.  Electrosurgery is frequently performed on skin cancers and uses a high frequency electrical current.  Lung cancer can be treated with Thorascopic surgery using a minute camera that allows the doctor to view the lungs. 

Recovery Time:  A patient's recovery time will depend on many different factors including the patient's overall health, the type of anesthesia that was used, the specific surgery performed, and whether or not any complications arose during surgery.  Usually, there is an initial recovery period in a secure area and then the patient is taken to a recovery room where family can join them.  Depending on the extent of the recovery needed, the patient may then be released to go home or will be placed in a hospital room for a period of time. 

Risks and Side Effects:  There are risks associated with every kind of surgery, and you will need to discuss these with your surgeon prior to receiving the procedure.  You will be the one to determine whether the benefits outweigh the side effects and risks.