Surgery is an operation to diagnose or treat cancer by repairing or removing the cancerous tumor and some connected healthy tissue. Surgery was the earliest form of cancer treatment and it is still commonly used (with more skill). It may be used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments. 

Common side effects from cancer surgery are specific to the type of surgery done. Examples could include, pain (often temporary), fatigue, the risk of infection at the surgical site, and scarring. 

Surgery has Several Different Purposes

  • Diagnosis – In a surgical procedure called a biopsy, all or part of a tumor is removed so that it can be studied under a microscope. 
  • Staging – Staging surgery can help define how advanced cancer is through evaluation of the size of a tumor and spread of the disease. 
  • Primary Treatment – For tumors that are localized and show no evidence of spread, surgery is the primary treatment. The goal of this surgery is to cure the cancer by completely removing the tumor. 
  • Debulking – A surgical procedure may be used to reduce the size of a tumor that cannot be completely removed, allowing chemotherapy or radiation therapy to work more effectively. 
  • Palliation – Surgery is performed to relieve symptoms by removing part of a tumor that is pressing on a nerve or causing an obstruction. 
  • Reconstruction – Reconstructive surgery helps restore the function or appearance of an area of the body where a tumor was located. 

Questions for your Surgical Oncologist

  • Is there anything I should do to prepare for surgery? 
  • What is involved in this surgical procedure? 
  • How should I expect to feel after surgery? 
  • What physical limitations may I expect to experience during my recovery? 
  • How can I help with my recovery? 
  • What can be done to limit scarring? 
  • If there is a risk of infection at the surgical site, what can I do to prevent a problem? 

As with all treatment options , take the time to explore your options. Also, get a second opinion if you are unsure.

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