Surgery is one of the most common treatments for cancer. It involves cutting away malignant tissue by using a scalpel or high-energy light beams (lasers).

Some types of cancer can be treated with surgery. If surgery is part of your treatment you will be admitted to hospital. Depending on the surgery you require, this may be for day care or for a longer inpatient stay. Before your surgery we might ask you to attend a pre-assessment clinic (or pre-admission clinic) so that we can make sure you are well enough for anaesthetic and surgery.

Your doctor may recommend surgery for a number of reasons:

  • confirming a diagnosis
  • removing a tumour
  • staging (judging the size and extent of the cancer)
  • reconstructing a part of the body
  • palliative surgery to relieve symptoms.

Planning your surgery

Every operation is unique because every person is unique. We can't be specific about what will happen before, during or after your operation. However we can give you an idea of the usual order in which things will happen. You should be given extra information on what is planned for you. You should also have an opportunity to ask questions. If you're worried about anything or if anything is unclear, speak to your doctor or nurse.

Do I need to come into hospital?

Yes, you will usually have to come into hospital and there are three options:

  • If you are to have a minor (small) operation, it may be performed in the outpatients department under local anaesthetic when you attend your appointment.
  • If you are to have a small (minor) operation, it may be performed in the outpatients department under a local anaesthetic when you attend your appointment.
  • Many hospitals have a day surgery unit where people can be admitted in the morning for smaller operations. If you have a general anaesthetic or sedation, you will need to make arrangements to be collected by a relative or friend. You can usually return home that afternoon or evening.
  • For larger operations you will need to be admitted to a ward for a longer stay of days, or possibly up to weeks.