There are some things the medical team may not know until the surgery is in progress. The surgeon will discuss these with you beforehand.
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 may arise.
Adding another surgeon
Another surgeon may be in 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 surgeon to tell you exactly what will be removed during the surgery, as scans don’t always detect all of the cancer. You may be asked to give consent to remove extra tissue if the cancer is found in places not shown on scans.
Creating a stoma
The medical team will talk to you before surgery if they might need to create an artificial opening in the body (stoma). An example of a stoma is a colostomy. This is when part of the large bowel is brought out to the surface of your abdomen through an opening created surgically, and a disposable bag is attached to collect waste matter. 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 given to you 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. Let your surgeon know beforehand if you refuse to have a transfusion or you are worried about needing a blood transfusion.
Before the surgery, my doctor discussed the complications that could occur afterwards. It was full on hearing about it, but I wanted to know everything that could happenKathleen
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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