Surgery side effects

The side effects associated with surgery will depend on the type of surgery that your child has.

Your surgeon will explain what to expect before your child has the operation and check that you understand the effects. Sometimes the extent of the surgery will depend on what they find during the operation, when they can see the cancer. Ask as many questions as you need to. You can talk to other people on your child’s care team too. 

Changes to your child’s body

When your child has surgery for cancer, it might leave them with permanent changes to their body. This depends on what kind of cancer they have and what their operation involved. Having a scar is common.

Here are a few tips:

  • Remember, scars always look worse straight after surgery when they are red and obvious. They often fade with time. 
  • Scarring can be difficult to accept and adjust to. If your child feels low in confidence about their appearance because of scarring, think about suggesting they speak to a psychologist or counsellor (speak to your child’s care team about this)
  • Skin camouflage products and services to help cover up scars are available. Speak to a member of your child’s care team about how to access them, or contact the charity Changing Faces.

Sometimes the lasting effects of surgery might be very hard to come to terms with. Your child will get lots of support from their care team before and after the operation. 

Pain and infection

Your child may experience some pain in the area that was operated on, but they should be given painkillers to reduce this. Talk to somebody in your child’s care team if they are still uncomfortable.

Your child may also be given antibiotics to prevent infection to the wound, and be taught breathing and leg exercises to reduce the risk of chest infections and blood clots.

For more information about surgery and side effects associated with the treatment of your particular type of cancer, see our types of cancer section.

January 2015, next planned review 2017.