While you may think of chemotherapy or radiation as the first line of attack against cancer, surgery is a key part of many cancer treatments. Nearly all cancer patients require at least one surgical procedure for biopsy, tumor removal or for something more complex. Where cancer has not spread to other areas of the body, surgery offers a good chance of full recovery.
Our highly trained surgeons are experienced in the removal of cancerous tumors and tissue using advanced techniques that target cancer and preserve healthy tissue and organs.
Surgical removal of cancer
When surgery is done for cancer, it’s called surgical oncology. Surgery is used in several ways to help people with cancer. It’s the best choice for stopping many types of cancer. It also plays a part in diagnosing and staging cancer and supporting other treatments.
Our surgical oncologists are skilled in surgery for specific cancers, including:
Surgical methods for treating cancer
Cancer surgery can range from a relatively minor procedure to an extensive operation. The type of surgery depends on the nature and location of the cancer. Many procedures can be performed on a minimally invasive basis using smaller incisions that lead to less scarring and a faster recovery.
In addition to traditional open-incision surgery, surgical techniques may include:
- Cryosurgery - Uses very cold temperatures to kill cancer cells. Depending on whether the tumor is inside or outside the body, liquid nitrogen is placed on the skin or in an instrument called a cryoprobe. Cryosurgery is most often used for skin cancer and cervical cancer and is also being evaluated as a surgical treatment for several other types of cancers.
- Electrosurgery - Kills cancer cells, such as those found in skin cancer and oral cancer, through use of a high-frequency electrical current.
- Laser surgery - Delivers highly-focused beams of light energy to remove very small cancers, shrink or destroy tumors, or activate drugs to kill cancer cells. Laser surgery is a very precise procedure that can be used to treat hard-to-reach areas of the body, including the skin, cervix, rectum and larynx.
- Microscopically-controlled – Removes cancerous cells in thin layers, examining each layer under a microscope until no cancer can be found. It is performed on small, delicate areas of the body, such as the skin (Mohs surgery) or the eyes.
Learn more about our surgical services and how to prepare for surgery.
Types of cancer surgery
Surgery that is done to treat cancer is called curative. Curative surgery focuses on removing tumors and affected tissue to stop cancer from spreading. Other cancer surgeries may be done to:
- Prevent cancer by removing precancerous cells (such as polyps in the colon)
- Diagnose whether cells are cancerous
- Stage the degree of cancer
- Relieve discomfort caused by cancer or cancer treatment
- Restore appearance or a bodily function (such as breast reconstruction)
Visit our online health library for information about types of cancer surgery.