Unlike clean margins, dirty margins mean the surgical oncologist was unable to remove all of the cancer cells. In these cases, additional modalities are reviewed including radiation, chemotherapy, and alternative medicine.
Dirty Margins in Surgery
When a surgeon removes cancerous tissue, it is critical that they do not leave any stray cancer cells behind. This would allow them to grow and potentially spread. To ensure this does not happen, a surgeon must be extremely careful while removing the tumor.
However, sometimes this is not enough and a small amount of tumor remains behind. This is called “dirty margins” and it can cause problems for the patient. If there are dirty margins after surgery, it means there may still be some cancer cells in the area where the tumor was removed. These cells will continue to grow until they are discovered or removed by another procedure.
Dirty margins can occur for several reasons:
- The surgeon may not have been able to see all of the tumor during surgery because it was hidden beneath other organs or tissues;
- The surgeon may have accidentally cut through some healthy tissue while trying to remove all of the tumor;
- There may have been more cancer in an area than originally thought, so more time was needed to remove all of it completely