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What Happens When Surgery Fails

For many types of cancer, surgery is one of the main forms of treatment. Doctors hope to go in and remove the tumor from your body. But, surgery doesn’t always go as planned. If you still have cancer even after the operation, you and your doctors at RCCA can explore what the next step of cancer treatment will be for you.

Why Surgery Doesn’t Always Work

Sometimes surgery is the first treatment, sometimes it’s the second or third and sometimes it’s not an option at all. If you do undergo surgery, there’s always a risk that it may not work. Some reasons why cancer surgery might be unsuccessful include:

  • Not all of the tumor was taken out
  • Cancer comes back or spreads
  • Major complications from surgery
  • Severe side effects
  • Doctors discover the cancer is worse than originally thought
  • And other reasons

What’s Next for Cancer Treatment?

If your surgery was unsuccessful, doctors will regroup and make a plan for further treatment. This may involve chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy and/or immunotherapy. If you already received those treatments and they didn’t work, doctors may try a different drug or dosage or recommend additional rounds of treatment. Clinical trials may also be an option for some patients.

Sometimes a second surgery may be recommended. For example, a patient with breast cancer may undergo a lumpectomy at first to remove a tumor from her breast. If the surgery is unsuccessful, she may choose to pursue a second lumpectomy or a mastectomy to remove the breast altogether. Similarly, other patients may have organs removed or transplanted or have limbs amputated.

After exploring the options with your doctors, you may decide not to continue cancer treatment. Or, the cancer may be too advanced for further treatment. In this case, supportive and palliative care can help manage symptoms, prolong life and improve quality of life.

Get the Cancer Treatment You Deserve at RCCA

With top doctors and cutting-edge treatments, RCCA can help you explore all possible treatment options. Make an appointment today to discuss them with a doctor. We have more than 30 locations throughout Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.

we are here for you

For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.


Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.