Cancer surgery is a common treatment method for cancer. Without surgery, even the most treatable cancer can spread throughout a person's body and cause death. Cancer surgery is a complex field consisting of many different procedures and risks. Cancer surgery can take place either as an invasive or non-invasive surgery. A patient's doctor should explain all the possible outcomes regarding any type of surgery option. Once all the possibilities and facts of surgery are explained, patients must discuss with their family and close friends if surgery is the best option for them. Usually, patients can be saved or treated in a positive way with either open or laparoscopic surgery. Once an informed consent agreement is signed surgery can take place. Recovery time and results are different for each cancer and each person. Some of the best doctors in the world perform cancer surgeries but that does not guarantee a successful surgery and the end of a patient's fight against cancer. The best chance to completely remove cancer through surgery is if it is caught early on. Once cancer has had a chance to metastasize, a patient's chances of survival diminish regardless of surgery options. Surgery may still be performed as a way to improve quality of life for a patient's remaining years.
Uses of Surgery
Cancer surgery is not just performed to rid the body of cancer cells. Surgery can be used to prevent cancer, shrink tumors, relive a patient from pain, and diagnose a patient among other uses.
· Preventative: Possibly cancerous tissues can be removed through surgery. Entire organs may also be removed to prevent cancer.
· Diagnostic: Surgery to collect diagnostic information can be accomplished through the removal of tissues.
· Curative: Curative surgery takes place when the removal of a tumor is expected to cure a patient of cancer.
· Debulking: Debulking is characterized by the removal of pieces of a tumor. The whole tumor may not be able to be removed for safety or size issues.
· Reconstructive: Reconstructive surgery can rebuild organs that were removed or destroyed during cancer surgery.
Surgery is sometimes required to form an accurate diagnosis. Image testing is a good way to help form diagnoses but surgical methods which take pieces of tissue and examine them closely under a microscope are more accurate. Various biopsy methods are performed to gather the proper amount of tissue needed to form a diagnosis. Some of those biopsy methods include fine needle aspirations, excisional, and core biopsies. A fine needle aspiration takes small pieces of tissue as it is inserted into a suspicious areas. Core needles act like fine needle aspirations except they have bigger needles and collect larger tissue samples. Excisional biopsies are characterized by the removal of an entire tumor so all the cells in the tumor can be examined.
Non-invasive and invasive surgery can be used to form diagnoses. Those methods are useful for gathering larger samples of tissue or tumors. They require more recovery time than a biopsy.
In order to gather diagnostic information from the gastrointestinal tract, an endoscopy is used. An endoscope has a camera and light attached to it and the doctor can view the digestive tract as the thin black tube travels down the patient's esophagus. Possibly cancerous tissues and polyps can be removed with an endoscope.
Cancer Surgery Procedure
Cancer surgery involves much more than going to the hospital for surgery and then leaving. There are important steps to be carried out when proceeding with cancer surgery.
· The first and one of the most important steps when considering cancer surgery is the signing of an informed consent agreement. The informed consent agreement clearly explains all the options a cancer patient has and the risks involved with surgery. If a patient is not able to physically or mentally agree to the informed consent, a family member or legal guardian may do so.
· The weeks leading up to surgery are full of diagnostic testing. Blood and urine is tested to find out if there will be any complications with drugs used during the procedure such as anesthesia. Patients are told they must not eat for a certain amount of time leading up to the surgery. Drugs used during surgery sometimes cause vomit, if there is no food in a patient's stomach they will not be able to vomit while unconscious during the procedure.
· The actual surgical procedure is unique for each patient. Choosing between open surgery or a laparoscopy depends on how large tumors are and how wide spread the cancer has become. Laparoscopies will be performed when the situation calls for it. Open surgery requires a longer recovery time, but all the cancer and organs infected should have no problem leaving through the large incision created by the doctor.
· Recovery begins once the surgery is complete. The patient is placed in a new room to be monitored as they awake and recover from the anesthesia drugs. After spending a few nights in the hospital, patients are free to recover at home. The type of surgery will determine how long the recovery process will take. Appetite and bowel movements are usually the last parts of daily life to come back to normal. It is the responsibility of the doctor to inform patients what to expect during recovery from surgery.
· Bleeding during surgery is normal. Blood transfusions sometimes take place before surgery to store a patient's blood. Banking blood before surgery assures that if something goes wrong during surgery there will be blood that can be immediately put back in a patient.
· Damage to organs and blood vessels is possible. Doctors must be very careful when cutting and maneuvering around organs and blood vessels. Expert surgical doctors rarely make mistakes that cause unnecessary harm to organs.
· Vital signs must be closely monitored during surgery. Some patients have bad reactions to the anesthesia or other drugs they are placed on during the surgical procedure. Anesthesia may cause some people's blood pressure or heart rate to drop to life threatening rates.
· Damage to the lungs, heart, or kidney during cancer surgery is rare but life threatening. Complications with among these organs during cancer surgery is more likely to occur if there is a past medical issue involving any of these organs. Doctors must be informed on the complete medical history of any patient receiving a surgical procedure.
· Pain is experienced by just about everyone who is recovering from surgery. Some patients deal with the pain with aspirin. If patients are experiencing serious pain, doctors may prescribe pain killers such as codeine or morphine.
· Wound infections are always a possibility. Today, doctors make a strong effort to keep everything sterile and lessen any chance of causing infections inside a patient or in the surgical wound. Antibiotics may be given in pill form or by injection to help fight off possible infections.
Common Cancer Surgeries
The most common cancers suffered by men and women are breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer. The procedures to surgically remove these diseases are lumpectomy (breast cancer), prostatectomy (prostatectomy), hysterectomy (uterine cancer), thoracotomy (lung cancer), and colectomy (colon cancer).
· Lumpectomy-Part of the breast is removed during a lumpectomy. It is an alternative to a mastectomy, which removes the entire breast.
· Prostatectomy-The entire prostate is removed during a prostatectomy. Incisions can be made either in the lower abdomen or in between the anus and scrotum.
· Hysterectomy-The entire uterus is removed during a hysterectomy. Sometimes the cervix and other organs are removed in the process. This surgery may be performed as an open surgery or a laparoscopy.
· Thoracotomy-A thoracotomy is characterized by the removal of an entire lung, a section of a lung or a piece of a section.
· Colectomy-A colectomy to treat colon cancer removes the entire colon and other cancerous tissues. This procedure can be performed as an invasive or non-invasive method.