Surgery is a common option used to help treat or diagnose many types of cancer.  In some cases, surgery may also be used to help relieve other symptoms caused by the cancer.  For some patients, surgery may be the only treatment needed to remove the cancer.  For other patients, surgery may be one part of the cancer treatment, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.

The following are highlights of how surgery may be used to prevent, diagnose or treat cancer:

  • Cancer prevention
    Typically used if there is reason (such as a family history) to believe you may develop cancer in certain tissues or organs.
  • Diagnosis
    When a tumor has been detected, your physician may remove all or part of a tumor and conduct further studies to determine if it is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).
  • Staging
    This type of surgery allows your physician to determine how advanced the cancer is, which is also referred to as the cancer stage.  In addition to learning more about the size of the tumor, your surgeon can determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of your body.
  • Primary treatment
    In some cases, particularly those where there is reason to believe the cancer is localized and has not spread, surgery may be the primary treatment to remove the cancer.
  • Debulking
    If the entire removal of the cancerous tumor is not an option, surgery can oftentimes still be performed to debulk (or remove as much as the cancer as possible) to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Relieving symptoms or side effects
    Surgery will sometimes be performed to help relieve pain that is caused by a tumor that might be pressing on a nerve or bone or if the tumor is obstructing other organs.