What Should I Expect After Oncology Surgery?

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  • Written By: Summer Banks
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Oncology surgery is an operation used to diagnose or treat cancer. After the surgery, patients can expect several weeks of recovery, which could be paired with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. If surgery is used for the diagnosis of cancer, further treatments would depend upon the lab test results from the tissue biopsy.

If oncology surgery is used to diagnose cancer, the tissue removed will be sent to a lab for further testing. Patients can expect to be in the hospital for a few days after the surgery and remain on bed rest for several days following the procedure. Lab results are often completed before the patient leaves the hospital. If the tissue contains cancer cells, the patient may need additional cancer treatment.

After oncology surgery, common follow-up treatments are radiation therapy and chemotherapy. While the surgeon aims to remove all tissue affected by cancer, there is a chance that some cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. These cells may not be large enough to remove with additional surgery.

Radiation therapy is used in about 50% of all cancer cases, including cancers of the brain, breast, and cervix. This treatment uses ionizing radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body that may have been missed during oncology surgery. Healthy tissue is also damaged during radiation treatment, so doctors often try to limit the time spent in this therapy.


Chemotherapy is a drug-based cancer treatment. In order to spread, cancer cells must divide. Chemotherapy drugs attack the ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the cell. These acids are responsible for promoting cell division and replication. Chemotherapy commonly causes side effects including hair loss, nausea, and weight loss.

Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy can be prescribed as individual treatments or as complimentary treatments. For instance, after surgery, radiation may be prescribed in combination with chemotherapy. If the patient's cancer cannot be removed surgically, radiation or chemotherapy could be prescribed to kill the cancer. If the tissue removed during oncology surgery does not contain cancerous cells, there will be no additional therapy needed.

Recovery from oncology surgery, whether additional treatment is needed or not, may include a post-operative plan. This plan will typically outline the medications to be taken during recovery and any limitations to activity. The physician may also require the patient schedule follow-up visits in the doctor's office. The number of visits will be determined by how fast the patient recovers from surgery.



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