Surgery for childhood cancer
- Important contacts for your child with cancer
- Children's Cancer Services in New Zealand
- Cancer diagnosis
- What is cancer?
- Tests for cancer
- Suggestions for successful parent / caregiver support before, during and after treatments
- Central venous catheters
- Cancer treatment
- Clinical trials
- Fasting and consent for procedures
- Side effects of chemotherapy
- Hand washing and hygiene
- Pain and childhood cancer
- Treatment of pain in childhood cancer
- Management of pain in childhood cancer
- Nutrition and childhood cancer
- Your child in hospital: The importance of play
- Your child in hospital: Techniques to help with treatments
- School and education when your child has cancer
- Support for the family of a child with cancer
- Going home from hospital after your child's cancer treatment
- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in childhood cancer
- Long-term follow-up in childhood cancer
- Childhood cancer: Where to go for more information and support
Surgery for childhood cancer
What is surgery?
This fact sheet is part of a section about childhood cancer. To access the rest of the content in this section, see Childhood cancer.
Surgery is one type of treatment used in the care of children with cancer. It is done by a surgeon in the operating theatre. The role that surgery plays depends on the type, location and extent of the cancer.
The different types of surgery are:
Primary surgery removes all or most of the tumour (a group of cancer cells) at the time of diagnosis. Sometimes the tumour is too big to remove or is in an area of the body from where it cannot be safely removed. In these cases primary surgery is done after chemotherapy or radiation therapy is given to help reduce the size of the tumour.
Second look surgery
Second look surgery is done after treatment with chemotherapy or radiation. The surgeon is able to see how well the treatments have worked in killing the cancer cells, and may be able to take out the remaining tumour.
Supportive care surgery
Supportive care surgery is done to help with some aspects of a child's care. It can include:
- putting in a central venous catheter that can be used to give chemotherapy or to obtain blood samples (see Central venous catheters)
- putting in a gastrostomy tube. This is inserted through the abdominal wall directly into the stomach to provide nutrition if a child is unable to take enough food by mouth for an extended period of time. There is information about gastrostomy feeding in Nasogastric and gastrostomy feeding in childhood cancer
Does surgery hurt?
Your child will feel nothing and will be aware of nothing during the operation because they will have a general anaesthetic and will be asleep.
After the operation, pain is managed by medicines prescribed by the anaesthetist or another doctor. The anaesthetist is the doctor who gives the anaesthetic and whose main concern is to ensure the safety and comfort of your child before, during and after surgery.
You can read about pain in the following fact sheets:
What happens before surgery?
The anaesthetist will meet with your child and family before the surgery, to discuss all aspects of the anaesthetic including risks and benefits, explain how it will be given, answer questions and obtain written consent for it to be done.
It may be possible for you (the parent / caregiver) to accompany your child into the operating room and stay until your child is asleep. The presence of a confident parent / caregiver can help reduce the fear associated with a strange environment. Preparation before procedures helps parents / caregivers to gain confidence. There are suggestions and ideas for good preparation in:
- Diagnosis: Suggestions for successful parent / caregiver support before, during and after treatments
When an operation is being done under a general anaesthetic, your child's stomach must be empty. This is to reduce the risk of stomach contents getting into your child's lungs while they are unconscious. Instructions about fasting from food and drink will be given to you and your child by the anaesthetist and your child's nurse. For your child's safety, the instructions must be followed exactly.
What can you do?
- read Fasting from food and drink before anaesthesia and sedation
- read about consent for procedures and treatment in Informed consent
- ask your nurse to help you prepare for the procedure if you wish to accompany your child into the operating room
All the fact sheets in the Childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology.They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2013
Printed on 24 May 2013. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version
DISCLAIMERThis fact sheet is for educational use only.
Please consult your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.
Fact sheets are subject to copyright. In the interests of information sharing they may be copied but acknowledgement must be given to PSNZ and Starship Foundation.
© The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 - 2012