Surgery for the Treatment of Cancer

Surgery is the oldest type of cancer therapy and still an effective treatment for many types of cancer. Surgical oncologists perform procedures to diagnose cancer; to remove all or some of a cancer or tumor; to find out where the cancer is located; to find out if the cancer has spread or is affecting the functions of other organs in the body; to restore the body's appearance or function; and/or to relieve side effects.

Types of surgery

  • Diagnostic surgery, or a biopsy, begins with an incision in the skin and removes some or all of the suspicious tissue so the healthcare team can make a precise diagnosis.
  • Staging surgery allows the surgeon to look for the size of the tumor and often remove some lymph nodes near the cancer, indicating if or where the cancer has spread.
  • Primary or curative surgery, or tumor removal, is often used to take out the tumor along with some healthy tissue around it – referred to as the margin.
  • Debulking surgery removes as much of the tumor as possible if the surgeon finds that removing the entire tumor may damage the body too much. In those cases, other treatments may be used to reduce the rest of the tumor. Sometimes these treatments are administered before surgery to shrink the tumor so the surgeon is able to safely remove it.
  • Palliative surgery is used to relieve side effects that is a tumor causes, and is vital in improving patients’ quality of life – especially when the cancer is advanced or a disease is widespread.
  • Reconstructive or plastic surgery can occur after or at the same time as primary cancer surgery to repair the body’s appearance or function. A common reconstructive surgery is breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.
  • Preventive surgery is sometimes recommended to reduce the risk of cancer – such as preventing colon cancer by taking out precancerous colon polyps.

How does surgery work against cancer

Surgery can treat cancer in many ways, including:

  • Removing a small piece of something that could be cancerous to check it for cancer cells (biopsy)
  • Seeing how much cancer is in the body and how far it has spread (staging)
  • Removing all the cancer
  • Removing most of the cancer so that other treatments, such as radiation or chemo, can work better
  • Treating problems caused by the cancer (for example, opening a bowel that is blocked by a tumor)
  • Inserting devices to help with cancer treatment, including feeding tubes or IV access tubes
  • Helping replace or fix body parts following cancer treatment, such as replacing a bone that has been removed
  • Trying to prevent someone from getting cancer

How is it performed

Depending on the type of procedure you need, surgery will either be performed traditionally or with a minimally invasive technique, using robotics

Where do you go to have surgery

Surgeries are performed in BRG’s operating rooms, and depending on the type of procedure, patients may recover in the hospital or at home