Cancer surgery is an operation to remove or repair a part of your body to diagnose or treat cancer. This type of treatment remains the foundation of cancer treatment. Cancer surgery can diagnose or treat cancer or simply relieve the symptoms cancer causes.
Advances in surgical techniques have allowed surgeons to operate on a growing number of patients and have good outcomes. Cancer surgery can be used alone, or it may be supplemented with other cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy, radiation, chemotherapy and biological therapy.
When a surgeon has to cut into the body to operate, it’s called invasive surgery. Today, operations that involve less cutting and damage to nearby organs and tissues (less invasive surgery) often can be done to remove tumors while saving as much normal tissue and function as possible.
Surgery offers the greatest chance for cure for many types of cancer, especially those that have not spread to other parts of the body.
Why Cancer Surgery
Cancer surgery may be performed to achieve one or more goals. Reasons you may undergo cancer surgery include: Cancer prevention
if you have a high risk of developing cancer in certain organs or tissues, your doctor may recommend removing the organs or tissues. For example some women have a strong family history of breast cancer and are found to have a change (mutation) in the DNA of a breast cancer gene. These women may want to consider prophylactic mastectomy. This means the breasts are removed before cancer is found. Diagnosis
Your doctor my use a form of cancer surgery to remove a piece of tissue (biopsy) to determine if cancer is present or what type of cancer it is. Examining this portion of the tissue under a microscope will allow the doctor to make the diagnosis. Staging
This type of surgery allows your doctor to find out how much cancer there is and how far it has spread. Staging refers to how advanced your cancer is, its stage. Primary or curative surgery
This surgery is done when cancer is found in one area only and it’s likely that all of the cancer can be removed. Primary surgery can be used alone or in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which can be given before, after or even during the surgery in the case of radiation. Debulking
Debulking surgery is used when it is not possible to remove the entire cancerous tumor due to damage to the surrounding organs or tissues. In these cases the doctor will remove as much as possible and begin radiation or chemotherapy treatments on the remaining tumor. Palliative surgery
This type of surgery is used to treat symptoms or side effects caused by advanced cancer. This surgery is not done to cure the cancer. Palliative surgery can be performed to correct problems due to the size or placement of the tumor. For example some cancers in the abdomen may grow large enough to block the intestine. If this happens, surgery can be used to remove the blockage. Palliative surgery may also be used to treat pain when unable to control the pain by other means. Restorative (reconstructive) surgery
This surgery is used to improve the way the person looks after major cancer surgery or restore function to an organ or body part post-surgery. A common example of restorative surgery is breast reconstruction after a full mastectomy.