What is surgery?

Surgery is the oldest form of treatment for cancer. It also has an important role in diagnosing and staging (finding the extent) of cancer. Today, more limited and less invasive operations are often done to remove tumors and to try to preserve as much normal function as possible. Surgery offers the greatest chance for cure for many types of cancer, especially those that have not yet spread to other parts of the body. Most people with cancer will have some type of surgery.

When is surgery used?

Surgery can be performed in a cancer patient for many reasons. They include: Preventative, Diagnostic, Staging, Curative, Debulking, Palliative, Supportive, and Reconstructive.

Surgery is only one part of a patient’s treatment plan. For example, a woman with breast cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Sometimes radiation therapy is used as adjuvant therapy to make your primary treatment more effective. For example, you can be treated with radiation therapy (the adjuvant treatment) before surgery (the primary treatment) to help shrink the cancer and allow less radical surgery than would otherwise be required, or you may be treated with radiation after surgery to destroy microscopic cells that may have been left behind.

Teamwork and continuous communication between the patient, the referring physician, surgeon, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist will assure that the patient will receive the most comprehensive, customized treatment for their cancer.