Cancer Surgery Overview
Surgery is the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue during an operation. A doctor who specializes in treating cancer using surgery is called a surgical oncologist. The goals of surgery vary. It is often used to remove all or some of the cancerous tissue after diagnosis. However, it can also be used to diagnose cancer, find out where the cancer is located, whether it has spread, and whether it is affecting the functions of other organs in the body. The location where you have surgery depends on the extent of the surgery and how much recovery is needed. Surgery may be performed in a doctor’s office, clinic, surgery center, or hospital. Outpatient surgery means that you do not need to stay overnight in the hospital before or after surgery. Inpatient surgery means that you do need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer to recover after the surgery.
As much as is possible, you need to know what to expect and be comfortable that the decision you’ve made is the best one for you. People differ about how involved they want to be in the decision-making process. But knowing as much as you can about what lies ahead can, at the very least, help reduce your stress level. It’s not unusual for patients to wait a few weeks after learning they have cancer to have surgery, although this depends on the type of cancer and other factors. In most cases, you will have time to:
- Learn more about the cancer
- Talk to others who have had cancer
- Explore your treatment options
- Organize your thoughts
- Find the right health care team for you
Informed consent is one of the most important parts of getting ready for surgery. It’s a process during which you are told about all aspects of the surgery before you give your doctor written permission to do it. The details of the informed consent form may vary from state to state, but it usually says that your doctor has explained these things:
- Your condition or diagnosis and why surgery is an option
- The goal of the surgery
- How the surgery is to be done
- How it may benefit you
- What the risks are
- What side effects to expect
- What other treatment options you have
When you sign the consent form you are saying that you have received this information, you understand it, and you are willing to have the surgery. It also means you understand there’s no guarantee that the surgery will work.
It’s important that you read the consent form and understand each of the above issues before signing it. Make sure your doctor answers all of your questions and that you understand the answers. Having a family member or friend go over the consent form with you may also be helpful.
In most cases, you’ll need many tests in the days or weeks before your surgery, especially if a major operation is planned. These tests are done to make sure your body is able to go through surgery and the drugs that will be used. They may also be done to help doctors better understand your condition and help them plan the surgery. You may not need all of the tests listed here (especially if you are having a minor procedure in a doctor’s office). But the tests most often used include: