Surgery is a medical procedure to examine, remove or repair tissue. For example, it can be used to diagnose or remove cancer. Your doctor/surgeon or Clinical Nurse Specialist will explain:

  • how you can prepare for the surgery
  • the possible side effects and complications of the surgery
  • how you recover from the surgery.

The type of surgery you have, and how long you stay in hospital for, depends on your situation. There are different types of cancer surgery. The main types include:

  • Open Surgery is when the surgeon makes a single, often large, cut. Sometimes they make more than one cut.
  • In Keyhole surgery (Laparoscopic surgery), the surgeon makes several small cuts instead of a single large cut. This leaves a much smaller wound, so you usually recover faster. The surgeon puts a thin tube with a light and camera on the end through the small cuts in the skin. This tube is called a laparoscope. It allows the surgeon to examine the area and remove tissue through the cuts
  • Robotic surgery is when keyhole surgery is helped by a machine. Instead of the surgeon holding the laparoscope and the surgical equipment, these are attached to robotic arms. The surgeon controls the robotic arms, which can move very precisely.
  • Endoscopic surgery is when tissue can be removed without making any cuts through the skin. The doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end to examine areas inside the body. This tube is called an endoscope. The surgeon passes the endoscope through an opening in the body, such as the mouth or back passage (rectum). Instruments can be passed through the endoscope to remove a sample of tissue (biopsy), or sometimes pre-cancerous cells or small cancers. Sometimes an endoscope is used to give treatments that destroy pre-cancerous cells or cancer cells. These include light beams (laser therapy), electricity (electrosurgery), freezing (cryosurgery), and heat (radiofrequency ablation).

Your doctor or nurse will explain what to expect when you wake up after surgery. If it is a big operation, you may wake up in intensive care or a high dependency recovery unit. You usually move back to the ward within a day or so.

How long you are in hospital will depend on what type of surgery you had.  You are usually encouraged to get up and move around as soon as you feel able to – this can help with recovery.

For further information on surgery, you can visit the Macmillan website.