Nearly all patients with cancer will have some kind of surgery. Cancer surgery may be used to perform a biopsy in order to obtain a specimen for determining an accurate diagnosis, provide local treatment of the cancer, and obtain other information to help determine whether additional treatment is necessary. Surgical techniques continue to improve, and surgeries are now less invasive and often performed on an outpatient basis.
In order to diagnose a cancer, a physician will typically perform a biopsy of a suspicious area, lump or mass suspected of being cancer. A biopsy can be performed on an outpatient basis. During a biopsy, part or all of the suspected cancer is removed and cells contained in the sample are sent to a pathology laboratory to determine whether cancer is present. Other information obtained from the biopsy sample can play an important role in treatment decisions. If the biopsy indicates that cancer is present, additional tests to determine the stage of cancer will be performed. Surgery may be performed as part of the staging evaluation and/or as part of treatment after the patient and doctor determine the overall treatment plan.
Before having surgery, find out all you can about the benefits, risks, and side effects of the operation. Answers to the following questions will help you feel more comfortable with your decision.
Depending on the type of operation you have, there may be things you need to do to be ready for surgery.
Emptying your stomach and bowels (digestive tract) is important if you will be given drugs to make you sleep during surgery (anesthesia). Vomiting while under anesthesia can be very dangerous because the vomit could get into your lungs and cause an infection. For this reason, you will be asked to not eat or drink anything starting the night before the surgery. You may also be asked to use a laxative or an enema to make sure your intestines are empty.
You may need to have an area of your body shaved to keep hair from getting into the surgical cut (incision). The area will be cleaned before the operation to reduce the risk of infection. Other special preparations may be needed, too.
It is normal to be anxious about surgery and anesthesia. Let your doctors know about these fears. They may give you medicine to help you relax before surgery.
Again, although each type of surgical procedure is different, they usually have certain things in common.