Cancer Surgery


If you have cancer – or your doctor thinks you have it – it is possible you’ll need some type of surgery. It’s natural to worry about having an operation. But you can take comfort knowing modern surgery is often less invasive and more effective than ever in helping rid your body of cancer.

Types of Cancer Surgery

Surgery is often used to treat or cure cancer. But it can also diagnose, stage and even prevent cancer. Some people need more than one kind of surgery, including the following procedures:

  • Biopsy - removing a piece of tissue from the body. Your doctor will test the tissue to see if it’s cancerous.

  • Staging - determining how much cancer there is, and how far it has spread. Your doctor will look at areas near your cancer, including lymph nodes and other organs. Knowing the stage of your cancer is critical for planning your treatments.

  • Curative surgery - removing an entire tumor. This is most effective when cancer is confined to one part of the body. You may still need other treatments. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may shrink your tumor before surgery, or kill any lingering cancer cells after surgery.

  • Debulking surgery - removing the majority of the cancerous tumor. This may be an option if your tumor is close to vital organs. It may also help other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, work more effectively.
  • Palliative surgery - reducing pain or other problems caused by your tumor.

  • Supportive surgery - enhancing other cancer treatments. For example, you may need a device placed under your skin so it’s easier to receive chemotherapy.

  • Reconstructive surgery - rebuilding part of the body that was removed. Many women with breast cancer have breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy. Additionally, some head and neck cancer patients need to rebuild part of their jaw or tongue after treatment.

  • Preventive or prophylactic surgery - proactively remove tissue that is likely to develop cancer. For example, some women who are considered very high risk for breast cancer choose to have their breasts removed. This is called a preventive mastectomy.

Advanced Techniques in Cancer Surgery

Some people with cancer need conventional surgery. This is what most of us think of when we picture surgery. It refers to a surgeon making one or more cuts into your body.

Today, there are many other surgical techniques used to treat cancer. Most need less cutting, and cause less pain, scarring and other side effects. 

Mercy offers most of these newer techniques, including:

The type of cancer surgery you’ll need will depend on several factors. These include the location and size of your tumor, and whether it has spread.

If you’re nervous about cancer treatment, you’re not alone. But you can take comfort knowing Mercy is by your side. We’ll provide the support and encouragement you need to get through surgery, recovery and beyond.


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