Many cancer cases require surgery to remove portions of the tumor. In instances of more advanced or aggressive forms of the disease, the affected organ may also need to be removed in whole or in part (e.g. mastectomy in breast cancer cases, excision of an affected testicle). The removal of affected tissue and the potential loss of the functionality of the organ can have a severe effect on the patient’s outlook. In their minds, they have literally lost a part of themselves. Also, the physical scarring, the extended hospital stays and additional tests that are part of the surgical process can have a negative impact on the patient’s emotional state.
One study published in the Journal of Surgical Oncology reveals what some experts consider an unexpected result:
“Although often acknowledged, the impact of the surgical treatment of cancer on the spouse of the adult cancer patient is a largely unexplored area…The results (of the study) indicated that at both the presurgical and postsurgical period, spouses were exhibiting significantly greater distress than patients. Surprisingly, spouses’ levels of distress remained fairly constant across the presurgery to postsurgery period, while the patients distress decreased…Spouses of cancer patients undergoing surgical treatment appear to be an underacknowledged population at risk.”
Before surgery, patients and their families are best served by educating themselves on the specific procedure as well as a time frame for recovery. After the procedure, patients can learn more about what limitations they will have and how long such restrictions will be in place. Family and friends can make the patient as comfortable as possible during both the inpatient and outpatient phases of surgical recovery.