Surgery side effects

How you feel afterwards and any side effects will depend on the type of surgery you have but your surgeon should explain more. Ask as many questions as you need to and talk to other people looking after you too.

Your surgeon will explain what to expect before you have the operation and check that you understand the effects. Sometimes the extent of your 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 care team too.

Will I have a scar?

You may well do as scars are common after treatment. Scars always look worse straight after surgery when they are red and obvious. But they often fade with time.

If you want to make your scar less visible, you could experiment with makeup and skin camouflage produces, design a tattoo to enhance or hide a scar, or treat yourself to some skincare products. Make sure whatever you decide to do makes you feel empowered and confident.

Scarring can be difficult to accept. If it affects your confidence about your appearance, you could talk to your healthcare team about speaking to a counsellor. It’s particularly important if you’re feeling anxious or depressed to talk to someone. They might be able to help you make positive changes so you can feel better about yourself. 

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 you feel low in confidence about your appearance because of scarring, think about speaking to a psychologist or counsellor (speak to your nurse or doctor about this)
  • If you need emotional or practical support, Changing Faces might be able to help. Their website has useful information and booklets about scarring, and details about their skin camouflage service.

Will I be in pain?

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

You 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.

My surgery will be life changing - how will I cope?

In some cases, surgery can be life-saving but also life-changing. Some people need to have an arm or leg removed in order to treat their cancer. This kind of surgery will inevitably be shocking and difficult to come to terms with, physically and emotionally. 

If you need this type of operation, you will get lots of support from your team before and after your operation to help prepare and cope afterwards. They will also give you details of specialist organisations that are there to give you advice and information, such as the Limbless Association

You can also contact one of these organisations who are there to help you with your emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Updated March 2018, next review due 2021.