Unknown factors

There are some things the medical team may not know until the surgery is in progress. The surgeon will discuss these with you during your preoperative assessment appointment.

Taking a different approach – The surgeon may start the operation as keyhole surgery but have to change to open surgery. This is usually so they can more easily reach the tumour or safely deal with any complications that arise.

Adding another surgeon – Another surgeon may be called into the theatre to assist your surgeon. This is standard practice, as the extra support can help achieve the best outcome for you. For example, a gynaecological surgeon may ask a colorectal surgeon to assist if they discover gynaecological cancer extending into the bowel.

Removing extra tissue – It may be difficult for your doctor to tell you exactly what will be removed during the surgery, as scans don’t always detect all of the cancer. If the cancer is found in places not shown on scans, your surgeon may remove extra tissue to cut out as much cancer as possible.

Creating a stoma – The medical team will talk to you before surgery if there is a possibility of creating an artificial opening in the body (stoma). An example of a stoma is a colostomy, when part of the large bowel is brought out through a surgically created opening in the abdomen, and a disposable bag is attached to collect waste matter from the body. A stoma may be temporary or permanent.

Needing a blood transfusion – If you lose a lot of blood during surgery, some blood or blood products can be transferred into your body through a vein (transfusion).

Blood from a donor is usually used. There are strict screening and safety measures in place, so transfusion is generally very safe. If you’re concerned about receiving someone else’s blood products, you might be able to bank some of your own blood before the surgery so it can be transfused back to you. However, this procedure is rarely used. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about needing a blood transfusion.

This information was last reviewed in April 2019
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