Surgery is a medical treatment performed by a surgeon or a surgical oncologist to remove cancer from the body or repair a part of the body affected by cancer. It’s sometimes called an operation or surgical resection.
For many cancers, doctors follow medical standards called clinical practice guidelines, which outline treatments that have been verified by research. Sometimes surgery is the most effective approach for a particular type of cancer, which is why it is recommended. In other cases, non-surgical treatments have been proven to be more effective.
Questions for your doctor
You may find these questions helpful when thinking about what to ask your doctor about surgery. If your doctor gives you answers that you don’t understand, ask for clarification.
Treatment choice and informed consent
- Why do I need surgery?
- Do I have a choice of treatments?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of surgery for me?
- How successful is this type of surgery for this type of cancer?
- Are there any clinical practice guidelines on how to treat this
type of cancer?
- How much does the surgery cost? Are there any extra costs I should know about, such as costs related to anaesthesia?
- Can I talk to someone who has had this surgery?
- Can I get a second opinion?
- Will I need other treatment before or after surgery?
- What type of surgery will I have, e.g. open surgery or keyhole
- What exactly will you do during the operation? Will you remove part of the tumour or all of the cancer?
- How long will the surgery take?
- Could your plans to operate on me change? Why?
- What anaesthetic will I receive? How will it be given? When will I meet the anaesthetist?
- What are the potential risks and complications?
- Will I need a blood transfusion?
- Where will I have the surgery?
Side effects and recovery
- What are the effects of the surgery (e.g. will it affect my mobility, diet, ability to work, sex life)? What are the long-term effects?
- Will I have tubes and drains?
- Will I have any pain? How will it be managed?
- How long will I be in hospital?
- Will I need rehabilitation? Will I have it as an inpatient or outpatient?
- When I go home, will I be provided with written information about my after-care?
- What problems should I look out for when I go home? Who should I contact if they occur?
- How often will I need check-ups?
- What kind of support is available to people who have this type of surgery?
Information about the surgeon
- Do you work in a multidisciplinary team (MDT)?
- Who will be in charge of my care?
- Do you specialise in this type of surgery? How were you trained?
- How many times have you done this surgery?
- Which hospitals do you operate in?
Video: What is surgery?
If you have cancer, a surgeon may play a big role in your treatment. Learn more in this short video.