Can Having Surgery Cause My Cancer to Spread?

The Short Answer from advanced practice nurses

Can Having Surgery Cause My Cancer to Spread? (short answer)

Q: Can having surgery cause my cancer to spread?

A: It’s a common concern: Cancer will spread if exposed to air during surgery. But it’s a myth. There is no factual evidence that suggests that either a biopsy of a lesion can result in a cancer spreading, nor is there any evidence to suggest that surgical removal or exposing a tumor to air can cause the cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

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Some people still believe it because they feel worse after surgery than they did before surgery.  However, it’s normal to feel worse immediately following surgery. This doesn’t mean that your cancer is spreading.

Also, your surgeon may find more cancer during surgery than was originally expected from the pre-op scans and x-rays. This can happen too, and it also isn’t related to the surgery. The cancer was already there, but hadn’t shown up on the tests.

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, be sure to discuss with your doctor.

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— From the book The Complete Cancer Organizer by Jamie L. Schwachter, BSN, MSN, CNP and Josette M.Snyder, BSN, MSN, AOCN

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Cancer Answer Nurses

Jamie Schwachter, BSN, MSN, NP-C and Josette Snyder, RN, MSN, AOCN are Advanced Practice Nurses for Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute’s Cancer Answer Line.