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 body.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
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 procedure.
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 cancers.
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 Surgery
Before a cancer patient going on the operating table, several steps are necessary: anesthesiology, preoperative exams, shaving, and others.
Anesthesiological 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.
Preoperative 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 testssuch 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 possible.
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
Recovery 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.
Pain 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.
Stitching : 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.