Surgery and Other Procedures for Cancer Treatment
- Small intestine
- Rectum and colon
- Respiratory tract
- Bleeding—This may require blood transfusions. The doctor will try to minimize your risk, but you may want to consider banking some of your own blood in the weeks before surgery in case you need it during your operation.
- Damage to internal organs or blood vessels—Your doctor will try to minimize this complication as much as possible.
- Reactions to anesthesia or other medicines—Although this complication is rare, it can be very serious. All your vital signs will be monitored throughout the procedure to watch for any signs of a reaction.
- Problems with other organs, such as the heart or kidneys—These are also very rare, but can be life-threatening. This type of complication is more likely to happen to a person who already has problems with these organs.
- Pain—Almost every person who undergoes surgery experiences some level of pain. Although some pain is normal, it should not interfere with your recovery. While there are many effective medicines for pain, usually it is the method of their administration that matters most. Patient controlled analgesia (PCA), for example, is a popular form of pain management that allows you to take charge of your own pain. If you are experiencing pain, it is essential that you talk with your doctor to make sure this issue is satisfactorily addressed.
- Infection at the incision site—Doctors take many precautions to minimize the risk of infection at the site of the wound, but it can occur. Antibiotics are usually given to treat these infections. It is important to let your doctor know if you detect signs of a possible infection at your incision site, such as increasing or thickening discharge, spreading redness, swelling, or increasing pain.
- Pneumonia —You are at a greater risk for this complication if you are a smoker, have compromised lung function, or had surgery done to your chest. To help minimize your risk, start deep breathing exercises and get out of bed as soon as possible after surgery.
- Other infections within the body—This is especially the case if your digestive tract was opened during surgery. Your doctor will take great care to prevent this effect from happening, and strong antibiotics are given if it does occur.
- Bleeding—This can occur either internally or externally, and can occur if a blood vessel was not sealed off during surgery or if a wound reopens.
- Blood clots—These can form in the deep veins of the legs after surgery, especially if you remain in bed for a long time. This can be a serious problem if the clot breaks off and travels to your lung. Try to get out of bed and sit, stand, and walk as soon as possible.
- Slow recovery of normal body functions—An example is movement in the intestines, which can result in constipation.
DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2001: 253-264.
Making treatment decisions: surgery. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/ . Accessed December 7, 2002.
Otto SE. Oncology Nursing. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc; 2001: 585-605.
- Reviewer: Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 09/2014 -
- Update Date: 09/17/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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