Is it possible for cancer to spread during surgery?
Isn't it possible that during cancer surgery, some of the cancerous cells can enter the blood stream and establish themselves in other parts of the body? Also, using a cell saver during surgery can possibly cause the same problem? If so, why aren't patients informed of these risks, so they can weigh them as opposed to the doctor weighing the risks for them?
I consulted a surgical oncologist on The Compassionate Caregiver’s Medical Advisory Board about this for my book because it is asked so commonly.
He says “Research has shown that cancer cells may routinely enter the blood stream in the weeks and months up to the discovery of the cancer. In the past, there was a concern about an increased release of circulating cancer cells during surgical manipulations. For that reason, operations were designed specifically to prevent this situation but they did not reduce the metastatic rate or improve survival rates over standard operations.” In other words, surgical manipulation of the tumor does not increase the risk of spread through the blood stream.
Cell Savers are used to collect blood lost during the operation. Cell savers are not recommended for use during cancer surgery because of the risk to introduce an unacceptably high numbers of cells into the blood stream.
The risks for each surgery should be outlined by your surgical staff, as it is different for each patient and each procedure. Ask “What will happen if I don’t have this surgery?” Doctors weigh risks in regards to overall benefit to the patient’s quality of life and should inform you of what you can expect with or without the surgery.
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