Surgery means treating illness by removing body tissue. It is one of the main treatments for cancer. Cancer surgery can be used for a number of purposes, as described below:
The surgeon may remove a small piece of tissue, which is used to confirm the diagnosis of cancer and to find out about the type of cancer. This is then examined in the laboratory. This procedure is called a biopsy.
Where possible, surgery is used to remove the tumour and nearby tissues that might contain cancer cells. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body that cannot be totally removed by surgery, you may still have surgery to remove the primary tumour of the initial cancer.
This is the process that doctors use to work out the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Staging can be done at the same time as surgery to remove a tumour. Information about the stage of the cancer is used in planning treatment.
Surgery can be used to restore: a part of the body, such as creating a new bladder appearance, such as breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.
Surgery is sometimes used to remove a part of the body that has a significant risk of developing cancer. This is called risk-reducing or prophylactic surgery. For example, a woman may have surgery to remove her breast tissue because she has a very strong family history of breast cancer.
If the cancer cannot be completely removed or cured, surgery can sometimes still help by removing a tumour to reduce its effects, such as blockage, discomfort, or other complications.
If your cancer has spread by the time that you are diagnosed, then you may not be offered surgery as your main treatment because surgery alone will not cure you.Depending on the type of cancer that you have, you may be offered a treatment that treats cancer cells throughout the body, such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and immunotherapy. Radiotherapy may also be used to help to control cancer that cannot be treated surgically or to reduce the extent of surgery.