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The Orenda Clinic & Apothecary - Toronto Naturopath Clinic focused on Hormone Support, Cancer Care and Fertility

Cancer Surgery Support


cancer surgery support

Most often cancer surgery will be scheduled ahead of time, giving you time to prepare so you can be in as strong as possible, helping you to recover better and faster.

Cancer Surgery & it’s Impact on Your Body

As with all types of surgery, surgery to remove a tumour comes with risk. However, when surgery is done at an early stage it can sometimes be considered curative. For some radiation may be done prior to surgery to shrink the tumour, making it easier and safer to remove. The risks of surgery vary depending on where the tumour is located, taking into account what other organs and tissue is around the tumour, and whether there are multiple tumours that need to be removed.

What to Expect

Unless extremely urgent, surgery will be scheduled ahead of time, giving you time to prepare. Often the night before surgery you are required to follow specific fasting protocols (usually no more food or drink after midnight, the night prior to your surgery) and the morning will start with an early arrival to the hospital. Recovery is not done in the hospital as much as it used to be, so once stable your doctor will clear you to go home and recover. At this stage there will be a number of follow-ups that require you to return to the hospital, but most of your rest can be done at home.

Potential challenges to be aware of following surgery include: constipation, pain, nausea/vomiting, infection, slow healing time, adhesions, and scar tissue formation. 

questions to ask before surgery

  • What’s the goal of surgery? (ex. To remove the cancer completely, to remove some of the cancer so you can test the sample, or to help with an issue that is being caused by the tumour size / location)

  • What are the chances that surgery will be successful?

    • How many operations like this have you done?

    • Are you experienced in operating on my kind of cancer?

    • What exactly will you do for this surgery? Will you take anything out besides the cancer?

    • How long will the procedure take?

    • Will I need blood transfusions?

    • Am I healthy enough to cope with the stress of surgery and anesthesia?

  • Are there any other treatment options?

    • What happens if I don’t get surgery?

    • Will I need other cancer treatments prior to or following surgery? (ex. Chemotherapy or radiation)

    • Do I have time to consider and get a second opinion?

  • How should I prepare for surgery?

    • What are the potential risks, side effects, and complications of this procedure?

  • What will recovery look like? 

    • How long will it take?

    • Will I be in a lot of pain?

    • How long will I be in the hospital?

    • Will surgery affect how my body looks or functions long-term? Will the changes be permanent?

preparing for surgery

  • Ensuring you have excellent nutritional status is a vital part of helping prepare you for surgery. Your body has an amazing capacity to heal but healing is slowed when your body doesn’t have enough of the necessary components, such as vitamins A, C, D, E, K, zinc, iron, and selenium. Getting enough protein prior to surgery is fundamental to helping your body heal, as protein is what your body uses to help build and repair tissue. As well, smoking cessation is an important consideration as smoking delays healing and can lead to a 30-40% increase in complications after surgery. Within 4 weeks of stopping, your tissue microenvironment and inflammatory function can be restored! So there is benefit to stopping, even if only a few weeks before your surgery. 

  • It is also critical to ensure that you discontinue any supplements and treatments that thin your blood, have the potential to interact with anesthetics, alter your heart’s rhythm, or alter how your body metabolizes drugs. A review of your current naturopathic treatments is vital to ensure that if you need to discontinue anything prior to surgery, you have between 2-14 days to do so.

recovery from surgery and aftercare

  • Healing takes time but we can help support this process by continuing to ensure you are getting adequate vitamin and mineral support through diet and supplementation. For some, eating after surgery may not be possible for a period of time and problem-solving around this can make a significant impact in making sure you do not lose weight and that your body has what it needs to heal.

  • Additionally, your immune system is in overdrive as your body heals and we want to help prevent any infections from setting in, as well as ensuring the inflammatory processes necessary to heal are both active and properly managed.

  • Pain is also a consideration as you recover from surgery. Long-term discomfort after surgery often occurs as a result of scar tissue forming and not being reabsorbed by the body after healing. When scar tissue “sticks” to other structures and organs in your body, adhesions can form and cause pain on movement. Ensuring scar tissue and adhesions do not form and/or helping to break up these adhesions can have a significant impact in reducing pain. 

While surgery comes with a number of common risks and support requirements, every patient will need a different combination of support options. This is why there’s so much benefit to speaking with your naturopathic doctor before surgery as prevention can often go a long way in reducing your risk of complications, helping you to recover better. 

If you’re in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and are preparing for or recovering from surgery don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, or to book a complimentary 15 minute meet-and-greet with one of our practitioners.


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