Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    7 Tips to Help Decide if Surgery Is Right for You

    By Kara Mayer Robinson
    WebMD Feature

    If you're not sure whether to go ahead with surgery, think about the pros and cons. It may seem like a daunting task, but with your doctor's help, you can lay out the risks and benefits.

    These simple steps can make it easier to reach a decision.

    Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

    Diabetes Power Foods: Whole Grains and Fiber

    Imagine this food: It's low in calories. It makes you feel full. And you can eat as much of it as you want. Too good to be true? It's fiber and it is real. You can find it in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Most everyone should eat more fiber -- especially if you have diabetes. Even though fiber is a carbohydrate, your body can’t break it down. This means you don’t digest fiber, and it doesn't raise your blood sugar. And as fiber moves through your body, it helps with digestion,...

    Read the Diabetes Power Foods: Whole Grains and Fiber article > >

    No. 1. Learn what to expect.

    Ask your surgeon to get specific about how an operation will help you. For instance, will it:

    • Take your pain away?
    • Improve how your body works?
    • Keep your condition from getting worse?

    Decide how important it is to get relief, says Frederick L. Greene, MD, a medical director at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C. Look at the impact your condition has on you now. Then ask yourself: Does it bother you or limit your lifestyle?

    Think about how likely it is that the operation will work. Ask your surgeon what the success rate is, says Todd J. Albert, MD, surgeon-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "What's the percentage chance of it taking the pain away?"

    Ask how long the results will last and if you'll need more procedures later. Compare that to what will happen if you don't have the operation.

    No. 2. Review other treatment options.

    Sometimes there are ways to handle a problem without surgery. Your doctor can help explain your choices.

    For instance, lifestyle changes may improve certain conditions. Ask your doctor if that's possible for you and whether or not you should consider it before you decide to have surgery.

    You may be able to do what's called "watchful waiting." That means you hold off on surgery while your doctor keeps an eye on your health to see if it gets better, worse, or stays the same.

    But that may not always be the best option. "Sometimes by not having surgery, you're really harming yourself," Albert says. Your doctor's opinion can help you make that call.

    No. 3. Check the risks.

    Ask your surgeon about possible complications and how likely they are. No surgery is 100% risk-free.

    Albert suggests you find out about the most common complication as well as the worst thing that can happen. Then ask about the likelihood of each. That can help you make up your mind about surgery.

    Today on WebMD

    blueberries
    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
     
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    senior female patient with doctor
    What to watch out for after age 50.
     
    fast healthy snack ideas
    Article
    how healthy is your mouth
    Tool
     
    dog on couch
    Tool
    doctor holding syringe
    Slideshow
     
    champagne toast
    Slideshow
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Quiz
     
    Man feeding woman
    Slideshow
    two senior women laughing
    Article