Our Schwab Family Cancer Center providers may recommend surgical treatments to be considered as part of the care of your cancer for a variety of reasons. Some of these surgeries include a biopsy, preventative surgery, reconstructive surgery, and more. It’s common for you to undergo surgery to help make the original diagnosis or to determine the stage of cancer after diagnosis.

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Oncologic Surgery

Surgery is commonly an option used to help treat or diagnose many types of cancers. Where appropriate, UPMC Western Maryland Surgeons make use of minimally invasive surgical procedures, including robotically-assisted surgeries, to treat many types of cancers.  For some patients, surgery may be the only treatment needed to treat their cancer. For other patients, surgery may be one part of the cancer treatment, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy/immunotherapy.


A biopsy is a surgery performed to aid in the diagnosis of cancer. A biopsy determines whether a tumor contains cancer cells or not. When used for staging purposes, a biopsy assists the doctor in determining if or how far your cancer has advanced. If cancer has not spread beyond its origin point, surgery may be recommended as a primary treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, you may receive a diagnosis ranging from stage 0 to stage 4. The definition of each stage is as follows:

Stage 0

You don’t actually have cancer at this stage. This diagnosis means that there is a strong likelihood that you may develop cancer in the future based on the results of testing. This is also referred to as carcinoma in situ. Individuals at stage zero typically have a flat lesion without any malignant cells in the nearby tissues.

Stage 1

Tumors at this stage generally measure less than two centimeters in diameter. They remain localized to their origination point and haven’t started to spread to other areas in the body. There is no lymph node involvement at this point.

Stage 2

Tumors at stage 2 measure between two and five centimeters in total diameter. They remain localized to the point of the body where they first originated. However, lymph nodes can already be affected at stage 2.

Stage 3

By stage 3, tumors are typically greater than five centimeters. Cancer has spread to other parts of your body, as well as the lymph nodes. Due to the spreading of cancer, treatments are often more aggressive at this stage.

Stage 4

At this advanced stage, tumors have spread to multiple locations in your body as well as the lymph nodes. They may affect the functioning of vital organs, even if that is not where cancer originated. Stage 4 treatment options, if you choose one, are most aggressive.


Preventative Surgery

Some individuals with a strong family history of a certain type of cancer opt to undergo preventive surgery to reduce their risk of developing that cancer. Your primary care provider can refer them to a UPMC Western Maryland surgeon to discuss all of your options.

Surgery to Relieve Side Effects

Surgeons may also use surgery to reduce the size of a tumor. this is also called “debulking” a tumor. This type of surgery is used when a tumor is too large to be removed entirely or is too close to vital organs to be safely removed. This surgery is often used to relieve side effects caused by the tumor.

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

For individuals who undergo a mastectomy or a lumpectomy to remove cancer of the breast, breast reconstruction surgery is available at UPMC Western Maryland. A plastic surgeon will help create a breast reconstruction plan based on your general health, body type, amount of breast tissue remaining, and several other individual factors.

UPMC Western Maryland Plastic Surgery