What are the possible after effects of cancer surgery?

Cancer surgery can affect muscles, bones, nerves and organ systems, depending on what part of the body is operated on.

The risks of after effects of surgery have been reduced over the years. Less invasive surgery is now used for many types of cancer. This generally results in less scarring than what occurred in the past.

Possible after effects of surgery may include:
  • Scarring at the incision site and internally
  • Lymphedema or swelling of the arms or legs
  • Problems with movement or activity
  • Nutritional problems if part of the bowel is removed
  • Cognitive problems such as memory loss, learning, concentration
           and processing information
  • Changes in sexual function and fertility
  • Pain that may be acute (sudden) long-term or chronic
  • Emotional effects that may be related to feeling self-conscious
           about physical changes--even if the changes are not visible
           to others
Newer surgical methods generally help limit damage to normal tissues. Methods of reconstructive surgery can now help reduce noticeable physical changes. Even when a radical approach is needed, advances in surgical techniques and technology have dramatically reduced long-term effects.

The type of surgery for cancer that is performed will determine the extent to which you experience side effects. Reactions to anesthesia, surgery complications, pain, and infections can occur. Your doctor should inform you about the potential side effects and complications that can arise from any given surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.