Cancer Surgery is a procedure/treatment that removes cancer that is contained in one area.  There are hundreds of different types of surgical procedures used to diagnose, stage, and treat cancer. Some are fairly minor and are more commonly called procedures, while others are much bigger specific operations.

Cancer surgery is generally to remove a cancer tumor and nearby tissue during an operation. For most cancers, abnormal tissue must be removed and examined to make a diagnosis and to find out whether and where cancer has spread to. This process is called staging. Staging can help the doctor recommend the best treatment for you.

Some cancers are also given a grade, which describes how abnormal the cancer cells are and how fast they are growing. The procedure used to diagnose and stage the cancer is called a biopsy, and it may be done under a local or general anesthetic. The tissue sample is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. Often a biopsy is done using a thin or hollow needle, which may be guided by an ultrasound, x-ray, or CT machine. A surgical biopsy (open biopsy) is done by cutting the body to remove all or part of the tumor. A biopsy is sometimes done in the doctor’s rooms, but it may also be done in an operating theatre in a hospital as day surgery.

Why Surgery may be an option

There are many reasons to have surgery:

  • Diagnostic surgery – (to diagnose cancer)
  • Tumor Removal – to remove all or some of the cancer – (called curative or primary surgery, tumor removal may be the only treatment. Or it may be used with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy)
  • Staging – To find out where the cancer is located – (Staging surgery is used to find out the size of the tumor and if or where cancer has spread or if it is affecting the functions of other organs in the body)
  • Reconstruction surgery – to restore the body’s appearance or function – (After the main surgery to remove a tumor, people may choose to have another surgery to restore the body’s appearance or function.)
  • Palliative surgery – to relieve side effects – (Also known as Palliation surgery, this relieves side effects caused by a tumor)
  • Prevention surgery – this is done to lower the risk of getting cancer. For example, doctors often suggest the removal of precancerous polyps in the colon to prevent colon cancer.
  • Debulking surgery Surgery is used to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Removing part of a tumor can also help other treatments to work better.

You may have surgery in a doctor’s office, clinic, surgery center, or hospital. Where you have surgery depends on the type of surgery required and how much time you need to heal from it. Inpatient surgery means that you need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer to recover after the surgery. Outpatient surgery means that you do not need to stay overnight in the hospital before or after surgery. Surgery is the oldest type of cancer treatment and it is still effective for many types of cancer today.

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