Surgery is not only used to assist in diagnosing cancer and helping to determine how advanced it is (also referred to as staging), but also to treat and even aid in preventing cancer. It can also be used to help treat problems caused by or associated with cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with a malignant tumor—particularly when it is located in a single area of your body—your oncologist may recommend that it be surgically removed. This ensures that the tumor will not increase in size and reduces the risk that the cancer will spread to surrounding tissues, bones and organs. For other patients, the tumor may be too large to safety remove without damaging organs or tissues. In these instances, the surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible (a process referred to as debulking), and complementary treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, may be used as part of the post-surgical treatment plan.
In some cases, the removal of both the tumor and surrounding tissues or bone is recommended or required, followed by reconstruction. For women who undergo a mastectomy due to breast cancer or patients who have joints or portions of bone removed, surgical reconstruction can restore appearance and/or function.
Surgery may also be used as part of the treatment process, allowing the placement of “ports” through which medications may be administered. It is also an important tool in palliative care, reducing patient pain and improving mobility and quality of life.
At St. Vincent Healthcare, every surgeon performing cancer-related surgery has extensive experience in working with oncology patients and their families. In coordination with your oncologist, they will take the time needed to answer your questions, explain what you can expect before, during and after your operation, and provide you the support and information you need to feel confident in undergoing a surgical procedure.