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Cancer Surgery : Risks, Side Effect and Types

29 September, 2020 Prashasti Jauhari
In cancer surgery, the surgeon removes cancer-causing tumor and the surrounding tissues. The surgeon who carries out the cancer surgery is known as a surgical oncologist.

This is the oldest treatment for cancer that is still used in the case of many types of cancer. Surgery can be done for several reasons like –

  • To remove all of cancer
  • To diagnose cancer
  • To provide some relief from the potential side effects
  • To learn about the location of the cancer
  • To find out if the cancer is affecting other organs of the body
  • To find out if the cancer is interfering in major functions of the body
  • To stimulate body appearance

The time you might need to heal from surgery depends on the type of surgery. It also determines how much time you would have to spend in the hospital. 

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Types of Cancer Surgery

​Diagnostic Surgery

A biopsy is usually done to diagnose the type of cancer. In the surgical biopsy, the surgeon removes a part or all of the suspected tissue by making a cut on the skin which is known as an incision.
 
The main biopsies are basically of two types –

  • The one in which a part of the suspected tissue is removed, known as the incisional biopsy.
  • The one in which the whole suspected area is removed like a mole or a lump, known as the excisional biopsy.

The tissue removed is sent to be tested for the diagnosis of the disease and then, the pathology report is sent to the oncologist who determines the type of tumor. 

Staging Surgery

This surgery is done to figure out the size of the tumor. It also determines whether cancer has spread in the body or not and if it has then where. Usually, some lymph nodes near the cancerous tumor are removed to determine if it has spread.
 
The stage of cancer might also be diagnosed with this type of surgery. The treatment procedure is planned after this surgery is done. It also determines whether there is a possibility of recovery or not.

​Debulking surgery

In this type of surgery, only a part of the cancer-causing tumor is removed. This is done when the removal of the entire tumor is too dangerous and might cause damage to an organ or the body.
 
After or before performing the debulking surgery, other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be done. 

​Curative or Primary surgery 

It is also known as Tumour Removal Surgery. This type of surgery is performed when the oncologist wants to remove the tumor and the margin. Margin is the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
 
Sometimes, tumor removal is done along with other treatments like Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy but at times, removing tumors is the only treatment that can be done.

To carry out this type of surgery, the surgeon makes an incision on the skin, muscle, and sometimes, even bone. To reduce pain after the surgery and increase recovery speed, the surgeon can sometimes use minimally invasive techniques.
 
Some of these minimally invasive techniques are –

  • Laser surgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Endoscopy
  • Microscopically controlled surgery

​Preventive surgery

This type of surgery is done to reduce the risk of cancer. The tissues removed in this type of surgery are non-cancerous.
 
Women who have a family history of breast or ovary cancer might be advised by the doctor to have a mastectomy (removal of breasts) or oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) to reduce the odds of developing breast or ovary cancer, respectively. 

​Restorative or reconstructive surgery

This surgery is usually performed after the primary surgery or other tumor removal surgery to restore the person’s appearance and body functions.
 
For example – After the surgery for breast cancer, a woman might need to get the reconstructive surgery done to restore the physical appearance of the breasts. 

​Palliative surgery

This type of surgery is carried out when the patient is in the advanced stage of cancer.
 
It is performed to provide some relief from the symptoms or issues that might have occurred due to cancer but it does not cure cancer. 

​Supportive surgery 

This type of surgery does not cure cancer either, instead, it is done to help other treatments of cancer in working efficiently.
 
For example – Catheter insertion to help in chemotherapy. 

Risks of Cancer Surgery

There is always a risk of potential side effects during any surgery. Talk to your oncologist before the surgery about the potential risks although, the positive outcomes of surgery are usually much higher than the risks.
 
Some of the side effects that can develop during or after the surgery are –

  • Blood clot
  • Pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Damage to nearby tissues
  • The reaction of certain medications
  • Damage of other organs
  • The slow recovery rate of body functions

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