Understanding the risks
Almost all medical procedures have risks. Factors to consider when weighing up the risks and benefits of surgery include:
- how long the operation will take
- the type of anaesthetic you will have
- the expected outcome
- what will happen if you don’t have the surgery
- your age and general health.
Some surgeries may cause permanent physical changes such as scarring or loss of a body part. Surgery may also affect your fertility (your ability to conceive a child). If you may be interested in having children in the future, talk to your surgeon about your options before the operation. For more on this, see Fertility and cancer.
Overall, you and your surgeon should feel that the expected benefits are greater than the possible risks. For some cancers, there are few options other than surgery. For other cancers, there is more than one recommended treatment pathway. Talk to your surgeon about your options. If you are unsure, ask for a second opinion from another specialist.
Don’t feel obligated to be treated by the first surgeon you’re referred to. It’s important to ask for recommendations from family and friends.Katherine
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
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.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.