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Surgical Treatment

Cancer surgery (Physically removing cancer)

The prospect of cancer surgery may make you feel anxious. Help put your mind at ease by learning more about cancer surgery and how and why it’s used.

Cancer surgery is an operation to repair or remove part of your body to diagnose or treat cancer but remains the foundation of cancer treatment. Cancer surgery may be used to achieve any number of goals, from diagnosing and treating cancer to relieving the symptoms it causes. Cancer surgery may be the only treatment, or it may be supplemented with other treatments, such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy.


Surgical Oncology - Novena Cancer Centre

How many ways is cancer surgery used?

Cancer surgery may be used to achieve one or more goals. Common reasons that might undergo cancer surgery include:

  • Cancer prevention. If there’s reason to believe that there is a high risk of developing cancer in certain tissues or organs, removing those tissues or organs is recommended before cancer develops. For example, if you have a genetic condition called familial adenomatous polyposis, your doctor may use cancer surgery to remove your colon and rectum because you have a high risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Diagnosis.   Cancer surgery to remove all or part of a tumor — allowing the tumor to be studied under a microscope — to determine whether the growth is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
  • Staging. Cancer surgery helps to define how advanced the cancer is, called its stage. Surgery allows to evaluate the size of tumor and determine whether it’s travelled to  lymph nodes. Additional tests might be necessary to gauge the cancer’s stage.
  • Primary treatment. For many tumors, cancer surgery hold an important role in curing cancer , especially if the cancer is localized and hasn’t spread. If there’s evidence that cancer hasn’t spread, recommended surgery to remove the cancerous tumor becomes primary treatment.
  • Debulking. When it’s not possible to remove all of a cancerous tumor — for example, because doing so may severely harm an organ — to remove as much as possible (debulking) in order to make chemotherapy or radiation more effective.
  • Relieving symptoms or side effects. Sometimes surgery is used to improve the quality of life rather than to treat the cancer itself — for example, to relieve pain caused by a tumor that’s pressing on a nerve or bone.

Surgery is often combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Whether the option to undergo additional cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer and its stage.


What can you expect before and after cancer surgery?

Preparation and healing from cancer surgery varies greatly based on the operation. But in general, you can expect certain similarities, including:

  • Preparation. In general, expect to undergo certain tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, X-rays and other imaging tests, in the days preceding your surgery. These tests will help your doctor assess your surgical needs, such as your blood type should you need a transfusion, and identify potential risks, such as infections, that may influence your surgery.
  • Anesthesia. If you’re having surgery, you’ll likely need some type of anesthetic – a medication that blocks the perception of pain. Your options for anesthesia will be based on what type of surgery you’re receiving.
  • Recovery. Depending on your surgery, you may stay in the hospital for a time before going home. Your health care team will give you specific directions for your recovery, such as how to care for any wounds, what foods or activities to avoid and what medications to take.

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Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

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