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Is Surgery Worth It?

lp1964's picture
Posts: 1072
Joined: Jun 2013

What experienced members seem to be saying here that life extending surgery, even if it's partially successful, is worth it and the best way to go.

Does this come from the traditional prestige and the physicality of surgery or it is really the best way of extending lif? What about the recovery and the side effects of surgery compared to chemo?



Posts: 2182
Joined: Oct 2011

It is absolutely worth it to me. I have had 4 major surgeries and 34 rounds of chemo. I would gladly reverse those numbers in a heart beat. I was fortunate not to have a colostomy but i did have 75% of my liver removed along with some of my diaphram nearly 2 years ago. That was the worst of the liver surgeries that I had. I would take that over chemo any day. And I do believe it extends life. I was NED for 18 months after the first surgery. NED 4 years after the second surgery.  Now NED 18 months, hopefully 21 months depending on what my next scan shows.

herdizziness's picture
Posts: 3649
Joined: Apr 2010

without my surgery three years ago, I would have been dead around 2 1/2 years ago, that pretty much says it all for me.

As for recovery from surgery, just pain for a couple of weeks helped eased by pain pills and then good to go, chemo side effects can last years.

Winter Marie

Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3175
Joined: Jan 2010

My personal experience with extensive surgery to remove tumor, ancillary organs, and create a colostomy was definately worth it.

Life right after surgery was uphill, but once recovered all is good.

Some surgeons balk at doing what they consider palliative surgery particularly for Stage 4 patients, yet it can be lifesaving...as demonstrated by some of our members who have had surgery and been able to continue the fight.

We had a member from the UK, SteveD, who had the most extensive surgery I have ever heard of.  While cancer did take his life, he had more time with his family and I believe he thought it was worth it.

Marie who loves kitties

Posts: 157
Joined: Jan 2012

I will take surgery over chemo every time. Chemo drags on and with surgery it's a couple weeks of inconvenience. Plus after surgery I end up in remission. It's a personal choice.  I hate taking drugs so surgery wins over with that also. Surgery is some anesthesia and a day of pain killers. For me chemo was IV drips and popping several pills a day. When I get a bad scan I run straight to the surgeon.  I had an ostomy for 11 months. It wasn't that bad and I got used to it quickly. I kept it a few months longer than I had to so I could work it in a convenient time in my work schedule. 

annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2528
Joined: Oct 2011

so absolutely yes.  I had five surgeries in 18 months, none done laporoscopically, so I have a huge scar.  Recovery time ranged from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.  My digestive system is not entirely normal, but it's not bad considering I lost about half of my large colon and a pretty good chunk of small intestine.  The side effects from my ineffective chemos are considerably worse.  With 20-20 hindsight, I would have skipped everything except for the surgeries.  And I wouldn't be typing this without it, so I couldn't imagine choosing to not do it if it's an option.


ETA that as stage 4, like many others here, I don't think this is even much of a debate.  I'm not sure what your stage is, Laz, but chemo and radiation is never a cure for colorectals from what I've seen, just a way to get into short-term remission (maybe).

Annabelle41415's picture
Posts: 4563
Joined: Feb 2009

Life is ALWAYS worth it.  Hope you aren't having second thoughts about going through surgery.  Your life might be different, but you will get used to the new normal.  Think about all the wonderful things you can still accomplish while living.  Recovery from surgery should be one of the least of your concerns.  It will take time to heal, but you will get on with life - look we all did.  Just think positive for the upcoming surgery and how much better you will feel knowing that part is behind you.  Chin up Smile


Posts: 1170
Joined: Sep 2012

Surgery is the key.  It's the only way to stay ahead of the cancer.  When you've been diagnosed with MCRC the best scenario is to stay ahead of the cancer with surgery and then do mop up chemo.  The hope is to enjoy long periods showing NED until it rears its ugly head.  There are exceptions.  Sometimes people will have several spots surgically removed from their liver and go on to be considered cured.  Unfortunately, when some people are diagnosed the cancer is too advanced for surgery to be an option.  (multiple organs/areas).  Also, when people have recurrences in multiple organs it limits them.  Ideally you want recurrences to show up in only one organ at a time.  Surgeons are more likely to operate when the disease is contained to one area.  Otherwise, people have to rely on "chemo for life".  Someone (I think Steve) once posted an article that compared managing MCRC to hitch hiking.  You "catch a ride" with each available chemotherapy cocktail until that particular combo stops working.  You then hitch a ride with the next one.  You keep going as long as possible.   Getting it cut out whenever possible will extend ones life considerably.  A well respected surgeon explained to my husband and I that surgery buys an average of six months.  (key words being average.  Some people go years between operations).  Stage four is a very tough diagnosis.  You have to devote a huge part of your life to fighting the disease.  It takes a lot of effort both physically and mentally.  I admire these people so much.  I am astounded by their strength and determination.  I don't know if I could do it.  Surgery is the way to go.  Even when you factor in the risks and the lengthy recoveries.  Surgery offers the best hope.



Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4410
Joined: Jun 2009


What I wouldn't do for a surgery now.....who even knows if chemo is even extending me....I know it keeps me sick....and I know I recover from surgeries.

Best life extension and best weapon we have available in our fight though is surgical intervention(s)....the reason I'm out out now 9 yrs. 3 mos....no question about it.

You've got to reduce tumor load....and surgery is really the only way to truly accomplish that.

thxmiker's picture
Posts: 1283
Joined: Oct 2010

I agree with Craig.  Chemo made me sick for years, and I recovered from surgery.  At the same time, I am consulting with Dr. Lenz next week to listen to my options.  I am also meeting with a TCM Doctor   (Thanks John for your inspiration.) To see what my options are.   


I eat well, exercise well, and now I am feeling great again.  USC will need a heck of a sales pitch for me to go on Chemo again.


Best Always,   mike

traci43's picture
Posts: 549
Joined: Jul 2007

Surgery has its risks but is the best chance for a cure or at least time spent NED.  I'd take it over the crappy side effects of chemo any day.  Especially since they are so good at pain control now.  Even after HIPEC, I had a epidural for 7 days and no pain meds after that.

Now, I do have a friend that needed surgery for a larger polyp that could not be removed during a colonoscopy and she ended up with a major infection and eventually a liver transplant.  Took her about 18 months to get back to normal and she didn't have cancer.

So, yes the risks are there, but even seeing her go through this I'd take surgery over chemo.  Traci

ron50's picture
Posts: 1424
Joined: Nov 2001

    That thing is so aggressive ,another week and I don't think I could have gotten it all.Well he did get it all and I am still here. Chemo on the other hand is like advertising, very hard to know if it's working or not... Ron.

lp1964's picture
Posts: 1072
Joined: Jun 2013

I guess what I really wanted to understand was that many of you have gone through surgeries like every few months and keep going. I don't have seconds thoughts on my first and hopefully last surgery at all. In fact I can't wait to have this tumor out of my butt. 

Of course I'm scared, it's a major surgery. I'm concerned how the permanent colostomy, potential impotence and other possible side effects will effect my personal and professional life. I don't like chemo either, but looks like it's a necessary evil.

You are all so awesome. You give such a clear prospective on things.

Many people asked: my wife's name is Audia.


annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2528
Joined: Oct 2011

I think you've given us a little more info to go on here, Laz.

You'd have to be crazy not to be concerned about these surgical side effects, which in the case of the colostomy at least, are significant life changes.  There is an organization, ostomy.org, that has a ton of info and I think a forum where you can talk to other people who have these.  Most of the people I know who have them are able to adjust to them pretty quickly.

As for impotence, did your doc say that was a likely side effect?  Maybe the men here can chime in, as I haven't heard much about that being a problem.  Heck, I have a friend who recently had surgery for prostate cancer (at age 50), and as his wife has happily informed me, things are still working just fine.  They gave her husband Cialis, in case additional support was needed, but he never had to take it.

It must be especially scary facing all this when you recently got married.  I'm betting that Audia will be happy just to have you alive, no matter what.

Posts: 2182
Joined: Oct 2011

To me recovery from surgery is all about being in shape, and having a strong fighting mental attitude. I was back mountain biking 6 to 8 weeks after each surgery and would have been riding sooner after the doctor would let me. The more you push yourself the faster you will recover. I also push myself hard before surgery stepping my mountain biking. I told my surgeon that a lot of my mountain biking buddies train for races but I train for surgeries. But seriously I feel strong heart and lungs will not only speed up recovery but increase your chances of making it through surgery. It's also helpful to be very goal oriented. Set goals for yourself each day in recovery and try to exceed those if you can.

Posts: 98
Joined: Aug 2013

Hello Laz,

Just seen the posts of our dearly friends of this wonderful forum & I strongly believe that surgery is the best option for extended life. Once the surgery is over, it is a matter of few weeks until you are back to your normal activities & you feel good after the surgery as you know the culprit is gone out of your body either forever (let's pray for that) or at least until it shows up again after some time. Don't worry thinking about the permanent colostomy, potential impotence & side effects etc. None of these are more important than living an extended life. If your surgeon is clever enough (I am sure he is) you will come out of all these problems well. I had the same concern as yours before my surgery. But it came out well & I didn't have any of those issues which I was pre warned other than the 2 weeks recovery time. With the Epidural Analgesia running through your system you will not feel the post surgery pain & for me it was almost zero. Recovery from a surgery is not a concern at all nowadays with advanced technology & expertise of a good GI Surgeon.


So be positive, go on & relax on that OT bed & it is only a matter of few hours of deep sleep & everything will be over. Good Luck on your surgery Laz. Stay in touch.


tanstaafl's picture
Posts: 1110
Joined: Oct 2010

Surgery is curative for that part which is cleanly removed. No resistance to stainless steel yet.  Even incomplete surgeries can become curative with chemo and stimulated immune responses.  Sometime extra surgery finishes the job after a combination of earlier treatments. 2 or even 4 weeks of recovery beats 6 months or life time heavy chemo.  In fact, with all the extra nutrition, my wife's surgery#2 experience, that most surgeons were declining, was better than even 1 cycle of FOLFIRI for many people.  In six weeks she was vacationing overseas without nagging reminders.

Our sequence was: immune therapy (killed a lot of stuff before surgery), surgery #1 ( R2, not clean margins, and massive leftovers), immunochemotherapy, surgery #2, immunochemotherapy. Now cruising 24 months past the projected "expiration label" for Folfox-Avastin, Folfiri-Erbitx, in very good shape, w/o the heavy stuff (5FU boluses, iri-, oxi-, erbi-, bev).  If we had gone chemo instead of surgery #2, odds are high this would be all over, badly.  Radiation, already iffy for scanned size, would have failed because the actual nodal volume was substantially larger than the scans.   

Surgery with some street smarts can add years to even hopeless situations, or even go the long run.

Goldie1's picture
Posts: 261
Joined: Sep 2011

my husband had some surgical options regarding his multiple liver & lung mets.  But, right now it is not going to happen, though we hope it may be possible in the future.  While Pat's LAR surgery (low anterior resection) took awhile to recover from, we have no regrets, and feel it was a life saver.  Also, just wanted to mention that Pat has a permanent colostomy and it has only improved the quality of his life.  It has not stopped him from doing anything that he did before he had a colostomy.

Take care,



karguy's picture
Posts: 1024
Joined: Apr 2009

Surgery is worth it.I had my first surgery 5 years ago,and 2 more since,with chemo,and radiation.Without it I would be long dead.Recovery was slow but not a problem.Eveyone is different.Good luck.

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