The wound-healing process after cancer surgery (and elective reconstructive surgery) can cause dormant tumors to begin growing in injured mice, researchers reported in a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine. The findings may explain why metastatic recurrence is common in breast cancer patients following surgery.

“It’s not the actual surgery, but instead, it’s the post-surgical wound response,” coauthor Robert Weinberg, a biologist at MIT, tells USA Today. “It is provoking already disseminated cells to begin to grow into clinically detectable metastases.”

The researchers found that in mice who were operated on, 60 percent of the tumors continued to grow. In control mice that did not undergo surgery, only 10 percent of tumors persisted.

I have long stated that the hormones and healing chemokines secreted by the body to heal a wound can be akin to pouring gasoline on fire for cancer cells. That being said, it is obvious that some cancer surgeries are unavoidable and we don’t want to add fear to the mix. However, elective surgeries can be avoided or at least, postponed.

Surgeons in the OR

Surgeons working with a scissors on a patient in a operating theater