(Re)evaluating the Rewards of AN surgery

(1) the tumor is out completely

Note that this reward is not at all as valuable if you really understand the implications of the fact that AN is benign. It cannot spread to other parts of the body. It grows very slowly, in most cases. It can stay there without damaging us if it were not to grow.

Also, this reward is not guaranteed. Often, a surgeon is forced to leave behind parts of the tumor to avoid servious complications, trading off the current risk of surgical damage for the future risk of regrowth. Even total tumor removals have a 2-3% chance of regrowing, but for partical (incomplete) removals, chances are much higher, at 25-50%.

(2) whatever damage the tumor is causing by its growth will no longer be caused

On the average, the complications of AN surgeries far outweigh the complications that people experience from the AN itself. The idea with AN surgery is not just to stop current damage, but to prevent later and greater damage, which will occur if the tumor gets too large. Delaying   treatment becomes a part of the risk-reward equation: it allows the tumor to grow (usually very slowly, if at all), but allows you to make a more informed treatment decision.  If you find a better surgeon, or choose a non-surgical option as a result of taking that time, you usually more than make up for that extra risk.

(3) you gain a new appreciation of life

Many surgery patients say that they gained a new appreciation of life as a result of their trials and tribulations, which made it worth it. But if given a choice, I have a feeling that all of us would choose an AN surgeon that would guarantee a totally complication-free process, where this appreciation would not be gained. For those of us who need to learn to appreciate, I recommend volunteering in a kids' cancer hospital. It will be more useful to others, too.

Last Edited: Friday, November 01, 2002