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Cancer is to a large extent avoidable. Some of them can be detected at their initial stage of growth, treated and cured. Even the last stage of cancer’s progression can be slowed and the pain can be reduced. Though cancer remains the world’s second leading cause of death, there are still many treatment options and drugs available to treat cancer, with many more being studied. The types of treatment chosen depends on the type of cancer one has and how radical it is. Few types will have only one treatment option available. But most people get a combination of treatments. Some are local treatments like surgery and radiation therapy, which are used to treat a specific tumor or area of the body. And, drug treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy are often called “systemic” treatments because they can affect the entire body. It completely depends on your doctor to make a reasonable treatment decision, depending upon the type of your cancer and its stage.  At the same time, every patient needs to follow some ground rules like acceptance, realistic expectations, beliefs and attitude towards the disease before exploring treatment options. Let’s now dig in deep and learn about the effectiveness and risks associated with surgical cancer treatment.

Surgery is the conventional form of treating cancer. It is very effective in removing the majority of cancer types before their spread to lymph nodes or distant sites, referred to as metastasis. Surgery may be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery may cure cancer if it has not spread to distant locations in the body. But, it is highly impossible to predict every time whether cancer has spread or not with complete surety. Hence, surgeons frequently remove the lymph nodes surrounding the tumor (sentinel nodes) to confirm whether cancer has spread.

The primary aim of surgery in cancer treatment is to eliminate the cancerous tumor from a specific area of the body. Hence, surgery is considered to be highly effective at complete removal of cancer in its initial stage, which is restricted to its area of origin and hasn’t spread to other adjacent or distant parts of the body (Solid Tumors). However, surgery can also be performed to treat cancer that has spread from the primary site or primary tumor to other parts of the body. Typically, a surgery to remove a cancerous tumor lasts 3 to 6 hours depending on multiple factors such as tumor size, tumor location and access to the tumor, surrounding organs, presence of nerves and blood vessels around the tumor, co-morbid conditions and the number of procedures being performed in a single session.

Risks and side effects of cancer surgery

Risk is a part of any surgery. Though technology has made surgery a safe and authentic treatment option, there are always some potential risks or side effects.

Cancer surgery, like any other treatment option, is associated with benefits as well as side effects. However, the type and extent of side effects differ for each patient, depending on the type and cancer location, surgery type, involvement of concomitant treatment like chemotherapy or radiation and the patient’s general health. In many cases, however, the positive effects outweigh the risks or side effects. 

Common side effects of surgical treatment of cancer include:

  • Pain: It is common to have some pain after surgery. 
  • Tiredness: Most people feel tired after undergoing surgery, particularly when it involves the chest or abdomen. 
  • Loss of Appetite: The patient may feel a loss of appetite after surgery. It may be associated with temporary weight loss.
  • Swelling surrounding the surgical site: It is natural to experience some swelling as the body’s natural response to injury is inflammation. 
  • Drainage from the surgical site: In some cases, the fluid that formed at the surgery site drains through surgical wounds. The patient should contact their surgeon if they develop signs of infection like drainage that smells bad, fever, and redness around the wound.
  • Bruising surrounding the surgical incision: Bruising is a common occurrence after surgery caused due to some blood leakage from small blood vessels under the skin.
  • Numbness at the incision site: Commonly, numbness is because the nerves in the skin are cut at the time of surgery.
  • Bleeding: Mostly, when a patient undergoes surgery, they lose some blood which is usually very little and does not affect the body.
  • Surgical site infection: It is common to have infections at the surgical site, but it can also occur elsewhere in the body.
  • Lymphedema: Collection of lymph in areas around the excised lymph nodes.
  • Organ Dysfunction: It happens most commonly when the surgery is done in certain areas such as the abdomen and chest.
  • Concerns related to diet causing GI problems like constipation and decreased ability to absorb nutrients from food.
  • Change of body image due to the distorted appearance of the body due to the removal of a certain body part.
  • Depression: It is a common experience one can feel after surgery.
  • Decreased sexual drive especially if surgery is performed for colorectal, prostate or bladder cancers.
  • Fertility: It sometimes affects a woman’s ability to maintain a pregnancy and a man’s ability to father a child.

It should be your first call before you decide to have any surgery or any other treatment, that you utterly understand the risks and side effects associated with it. As any type of medical treatment has its risks and side effects. Be sure, you discuss the details of your case with your physician or surgeon before undergoing any treatment so that you can have a better idea about what your risks might be. The most important thing one should consider that the expected positive effects of the surgery outweigh the possible risks. 

“Cancer is a chapter in your life, not your whole story.”

To the ones who have fought cancer or witnessed someone fighting cancer, very well know that the after-life is challenging. It’s better to be prepared for the ‘newness’ that will arrive unannounced than become anxious about it. There are certain do’s and don’ts that one can follow to make the beautiful life, you fought for, more beautiful. After a heroic journey of battling cancer, one would face several challenges to cope up with the new normal life. It can right from dealing with long-term or short-term illnesses that can be caused due to cancer, coping with the mental health and physical health post the surgery, or even the simplest task of meeting your peers and colleagues again. Your everyday life just takes a drastic turn. Let’s take a pause here and learn how to manage these challenges for a better living. After all, you fought only so that you could get back on track!

Here are certain Do’s that you can follow after a Cancer Surgery

GIVE TIME

Time heals. In this case, be it cancer or coping with the after-life. Just as you are dealing with yourself and taking the time to accept the new changes, the people around you are doing the same. Give each other the time to learn and adjust what might work or not work going forward. Your new lifestyle will not only bring changes in your life but also in the life of people around you. So, give time and take time to understand the same. 

FOLLOW-UP & MEDICATION

While you have successfully defeated cancer, it is equally important to keep visiting the doctor as and when requested after the surgery. There’s a lot that your doctor needs to examine even after months of the surgery and hence it is paramount to not miss follow-ups along with the prescribed medication by your doctor. These factors are directly linked to your recovery rate and survival.

STAY POSITIVE

It’s easy to go on a negative trail of thoughts about cancer and your life. But keep in mind that it will only affect you and your mental being. Divert your energy in positive thinking. Indulge in tasks that made you happy or find new interesting ones. Meditation, yoga, new hobbies will help resurrect your mental health, which is paramount.

TALK IT OUT

Talking not only helps you, but also the people around you; to know how you are feeling. You could talk to anyone – your parents, peers, colleagues, partners, or even medical experts. Your fears, doubts, expectations, feelings all fall in place once you put them into words. Journaling too is a great way of dealing with internal conflicts. Know that people around you are all ears. All you have to do is talk it out.

While there are certain dos, there are also a few don’ts to keep in mind.

DON’T SLACK

The last thing you want to do is be in that bed forever. Do not let the slacking feeling take over you. Get out and get active. It only gets easier once you take the first step. Start reading, listen to music, kickstart the project you wanted, exercise, meet people. Just. Don’t. Slack. You did not fight to stay in bed, you fought to LIVE. So, let’s get going!

DON’T CONTROL

Keep in mind that the recurrence of illness is not in your hands. Don’t try to control the feelings, people, things, and your health. Just go with the flow and live every moment that you fought for! Controlling is not the solution. But accepting and dealing with is. Make sure you follow the medical procedure and surround yourself will all the affection that you deserve!

After all, the flower that blooms in adversity, is the most beautiful of them all. Keep in mind that you are a cancer survivor and remember that you are one of those million survivors who fought their way back to life and will continue to lead a fulfilling life. 

Cancer is the most common term for a large group of diseases that affect any part of the body. Few other terms that are used to describe this disease are malignant tumors and neoplasm. In simple words, cancer can be explained as the quick creation of abnormal cells that grow outside their usual borders, and crowd other parts of the body. This phenomenon makes the body inefficient in the way it functions and if not treated appropriately can lead to death. Today, as per the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths globally. There are more than 100 types of cancer and some of the most common cancers are Lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal, prostate, skin cancer and stomach cancer. WHO also states that around one-third of deaths from cancer occur due to 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco intake, and excessive alcohol consumption. Tobacco use is the most critical risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths worldwide. But, cancer can be treated very well for many people. More people than ever before lead full lives post-cancer treatment after the new age advancements in the medical space. However, for that, the doctor needs to know correctly what stage the cancer is in and how far it has spread from where it originated. Knowing the type and stage of cancer can help the doctor determine the best treatment options available. Let’s now dive deeper and understand cancer surgeries and its different kinds.

Cancer surgery is a surgical operative procedure carried out to remove the tumor and its surrounding tissue. It is the oldest provision to treat cancer, but it is effective even today to treat multiple types of cancer. Many different types of surgeries exist today, that aid in treating cancer patients alone or in tandem with other treatment options such as radiation and chemotherapy. Some common cancers like breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, and colorectal cancer have high cure rates when detected at an early stage and if treated with best practices.

Following are the various types of cancer surgeries: 

A) Curative Surgery: It extracts the entire cancerous tumor from the body. This surgery type is preferred as a primary mode of treatment in cases where the tumor is restricted to a specific area in the body. Unlike diagnostic surgeries that may get rid of a small portion of tissue to confirm the existence and the stage of the disease, curative surgeries take a much more fundamental surgical approach, typically ensuing in partial or total removal of the organ of origin.

B) Preventive Surgery: It is used for the removal of tissue that is devoid of cancer cells, but tends to develop into a malignant tumor (Pre-cancerous growth) such as intestinal polyps.

C) Diagnostic Surgery: It aids to decide if cells are cancerous or not. It is used to extract a tissue sample for testing in a lab, which confirms the diagnosis of cancer and identifies the cancer type along with the determination of the stage of cancer. There are multiple ways to detect or confirm the existence of a cancer cell. The microscopic examination of biopsy samples is the ultimate way for a positive diagnosis of cancer.

D) Staging Surgery: Staging is the process of finding out the location of the cancer cell and how much of it is there in a person’s body through a laparoscopic procedure. It depends on how the doctor defines the stage of cancer.

E) Debulking Surgery: The main goal is to remove as much cancerous tissue in a patient’s abdomen as possible. Some tumors may be completely removed while others are just reduced in size.

F) Palliative Surgery: It is used in treating cancer at progressive stages Palliative surgery aims at supplying the greatest benefit to the patient using the least invasive intervention.

G) Supportive Surgery: It resembles palliative surgery and aids other treatments of cancer to work with more effectiveness.

H) Restorative Surgery: It is used to restore the patient’s normal look or function after a curative surgery affecting the patient’s appearance such as surgery for oral cancer. There are other novel specialized cancer surgery types, which can help treat cancers.

These newer approaches are:

A) Cryosurgery which uses extremely low temperatures to kill cancer cells. The surgery most often involves the use of liquid nitrogen, although carbon dioxide and argon may also be used.

B) Laser Surgery uses light energy beams to destroy very small cancers. It can also be used to activate drugs to kill cancer cells. This surgery is preferred to treat cancers of difficult to reach areas such as the rectum, cervix, etc.

C) Electrosurgery: As the name suggests, this approach uses electrical current to kill cancer cells, preferably in cancers of the skin and oral mucosa. The two other types of electrosurgery most commonly used are high-frequency electrosurgery and electrocautery.

D) Microscopically controlled surgery or Moh’s Surgery is used in cases where the cancer is present in delicate body parts like the eye. It involves the careful removal of cancerous tissue layer by layer until the extracted layers stop showing evidence of cancer cells.   

To round off, a correct cancer diagnosis is the first and the most important step for adequate and effective treatment because every cancer type requires a specific treatment regimen that encompasses one or more modalities. Cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and screened early. The primary goal of all kind of surgeries is generally to cure cancer or to significantly prolong life. Improving the patient’s quality of life is also an important goal as well and this can be achieved by supportive or palliative care and psychosocial support.

Treatment of cancer involves the use of either surgical removal or the use of radiation, medicines, and multiple other modalities for curing cancer. Currently, multiple types of cancer treatment are available. The selection of a treatment regimen for cancer depends on each patient’s medical condition, his/her cancer type, involving organs or the extent of cancer spread. A cancer patient may be prescribed either a single treatment option or a combination of multiple treatment options.

The goal of cancer treatment

Achieving a total or maximum possible cure for your cancer is the ultimate goal of cancer treatment, which may allow a cancer patient to lead a normal life. A complete cure and normal lifespan might not be possible in every patient post-treatment, but it may enable the treating doctors to reduce the size of the patient’s cancer tumor or delay the growth of cancer so that the patient may lead a symptom-free life for the maximum possible period after treatment.

Forms of cancer treatment

Treatment in cancer may be in two chief forms

  • Primary Treatment

The goal of a primary form of treatment is to entirely remove cancer from your body or kill all the existing cells of cancer in your body. Any treatment type in cancer can work as a primary mode of cancer treatment, but surgery is the most frequently recommended primary mode of treatment in most patients. Your doctor may also recommend radiation or drug therapy as primary treatment if you are particularly sensitive to these treatment regimens.

  • Adjuvant Treatment

Adjuvant treatment’s goal is to kill any existing cancer cells, which are surviving post-primary treatment. Adjuvant treatment in cancer reduces the chance of cancer recurrence. Same as primary treatment, any cancer treatment can work as adjuvant treatment. However, most frequent adjuvant therapies include drug or chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy.

  • Neoadjuvant Treatment

This treatment type is similar to the adjuvant type but its goal is different from the adjuvant treatment. Neoadjuvant treatment is used to make the primary treatment easier or raise its effectiveness and is used before primary treatments.

  • Palliative Treatment

It is used in treating cancer at progressive stages. It does not treat cancer but eases the discomfort or associated adverse effects of cancer treatment.

Types of Cancer Treatment

Multiple treatments are currently available for treating cancer. However, selecting a particular treatment type for each patient depends on the individual patient’s cancer type and stage, his/her overall health and also his/her preferred treatment type. You and your doctor together can decide which treatment is best suited for you based on the merits and demerits of each treatment.

Options to treat cancer include:

  • Surgery

The goal of cancer surgery is the removal of the entire or maximum possible cancerous tumor from the patient’s body.

  • Chemotherapy

It involves the usage of drugs to kill cancer cells in the patient’s body.

  • Radiation Therapy

This method utilizes uses high-intensity beams of light energy for killing cancer cells. The radiation source may be placed outside your body or may even be inserted in the patient’s body.

  • Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow is the material present inside the bones of each human that produces blood cells. A bone marrow transplant can utilize the patient’s cells of bone marrow or from a healthy donor, mostly a family member. This method enables the doctor to use a higher chemotherapy dose to kill cancer cells or replaces the cancerous bone marrow.

  • Immunotherapy

This therapy boosts the immune system of the patient’s body to fight and kill the cancer cells by enabling it to recognize the cancer cells present in the body.

  • Hormonal Therapy

It is used to treat some hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer. This therapy involves the removal of these hormones or blocking their effects in the body, stopping the growth of cancer cells.

  • Targeted Drug Therapy

This therapy concentrates on particular defects within cancer cells that enable the survival of the cancer cells.

  • Cryotherapy

It uses extremely low temperature to kill cancer cells. During cryoablation, a thin, wandlike needle (cryoprobe) is inserted through your skin and directly into the cancerous tumor. Gas is pumped into the cryoprobe to freeze the tissue. Then the tissue is allowed to thaw. The freezing and thawing process is repeated several times during the same treatment session to kill the cancer cells.

  • Radiofrequency Ablation

This treatment involves the use of electrical energy to raise the temperature of cancer cells, leading to their death.

While there are multiple treatment options available to treat cancer, it is advisable to consult a surgeon to prescribe the best treatment for your case as the line of treatment will always depend on the types and severity of the disease.

Hernias do not heal on their own. Though they can remain asymptomatic for a long time and cause no trouble, they also have high possibilities of getting worse with time. Usually surgical repair is recommended for treating hernias but your doctor may prescribe OTC (Over-the-Counter) antacid medicines at times to reduce the risk of your hernia or may ask you to wear a supporting truss. The hernia has a high rate of recurrence, and surgeons often use surgical mesh to strengthen the repair and reduce the rate of recurrence. The use of surgical mesh may also improve patient outcomes through decreased operative time and minimized recovery time. Now let’s understand more about Hernia mesh.

What is hernia mesh?

A hernia mesh is a surgical device used to provide added backing to damaged or impaired tissue due to hernia till it gets healed. It is placed through the area around the hernia, attaching it with stitches, staples or glue. Mesh’s pores let tissue to grow into the device.

How a hernia mesh works?

A hernia surgical mesh functions as an elastic scaffold for hernia repair. It reinforces walls of muscles and prevents organs from protruding through them.

Types of Hernia mesh

Most of contemporarily existing hernia mesh devices are composed of synthetic materials or tissues of animals. Surgical mesh manufactured from synthetic materials is available in knitted or non-knitted variants. The synthetic hernia meshes are made of absorbable, non-absorbable or a combination of these materials. Animal-derived meshes are made of processed and disinfected intestine or skin of pigs or cows, which are absorbable, suited for application as an implanted device.

Is Hernia mesh safe?

Hernia repair using mesh is currently one of the most regularly accomplished surgeries in general surgery. The use of mesh is recognized to reduce recurrence rates of hernia. As per evidence, non-mesh repair of hernias are associated with a higher recurrence rate at 1 year when compared to mesh repair.

Currently, chronic pain following hernia surgery is the most concerning post-operative complication with recurrence rates decreasing than ever before by using surgical hernia mesh.

Hence, the focus in hernia surgery is now shifted in defining, assessing and identifying risk factors relating to chronic pain. Chronic pain hernia surgery is a vital problem for a considerable number of patients. Some identified risk factors for post-operative pain include younger age, female gender, hernia recurrence, operative complications, and elevated pain levels in the immediate post-operative period. However, recent evidence confirms the safety and effectiveness of mesh utilization in hernia surgery. The recent evidence demonstrates that hernia repair with mesh is not linked to an intolerable level of severe chronic pain. Complication rates are low for hernia repair surgery and in majority of cases, not related to the mesh itself. It is shown that pain scores normally improve post 1 year of hernia repair.

How long does Hernia mesh last?

Non-absorbable mesh stay in the body forever and is termed as an everlasting implant. It is used to provide long-lasting support to the repaired hernia. On the contrary, absorbable mesh gets degraded eventually, losing its strength over time depending on its composition. It is not meant to provide lasting support to the repair site. As the absorbable mesh material degrades, new tissue growth is meant to give power to the repair.

If you are unsure about the specific which mesh to go with, mesh manufacturer and brand used in your surgery and have questions about your hernia repair, contact your surgeon or the facility where your surgery was performed to obtain the information from your medical record.