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Cancer Surgery

Surgery is one of the treatment modalities in treating cancer and almost all early stage cancers are treated by surgery. Surgeon may use surgery to diagnose or treat the cancer and to relieve the symptoms the cancer causes. Cancer patients will mostly undergo at least one surgical procedure in the trajectory of their cancer. Surgery may be the only treatment but it is often used in combination with other treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy. The choice of treatments depend on the type, location and size of the tumor.

Listed below is the most common type of cancer surgeries:

Cancer Prevention

Preventive surgery is done to remove body tissue or organ that is likely to become cancer. But it is usually after evaluating the patient’s family history, risk of getting cancer and body condition; this option is recommended by the surgeon i.e. to remove these tissues or organs before cancer develops. For example, pre-cancerous polyps may be removed from the colon.


This type of surgery, commonly known as “biopsy”, is a procedure to remove all or part of a tumor. All or part of the tumor will then be put to study under a microscope to determine whether the growth is cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). But many types of biopsies can also be done by removing small pieces of tumor through a thin needle or through a flexible lighted tube called an endoscope. Biopsies are often done by surgeons, but they can also be done by other doctors.


This type of surgery helps your doctor define how advanced the cancer is, called “stage”. It also allows doctor to evaluate the size of tumor and how far it has spread. Additional tests like laboratory and imaging tests might be required to determine the stage of cancer of a patient.

Primary Treatment

Cancer surgery can be the primary treatment especially when the cancer is localized or hasn’t spread to other parts of the body and it is likely that all of the tumor can be removed. It may also be used along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, before or after the operation.


Debulking surgery is to remove some or as much as possible of a tumor in order to make chemotherapy or radiation therapy more effective. It is done when removing all of a tumor is not possible as removing all tumor would cause severe damage to an organ. Debulking surgery is commonly used for advanced cancer of the ovary.

Relieving Symptoms or Side Effects

This surgery is used to improve quality of life of a patient rather than to treat the cancer itself. For example, the surgery can be done to relieve pain, discomfort or disability caused by a tumor.