Surgery for cancer is used to prevent, diagnose, stage, and treat cancer. About 60% of cancer patients will undergo surgery to treat cancer. It is often combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. There are several reasons to conduct surgery on cancer patients.
Diagnostic or explorative surgery diagnoses cancer through a biopsy, to confirm a diagnosis, identify a type of cancer, or determine its stage. During a biopsy, doctors will remove a small tissue sample and test it to see if the cells are cancerous.
Staging surgery determines how far the cancer has spread, by examining the area around the cancer and nearby organs or by taking tissue samples.
Debulking surgery removes a portion of a tumour, but not all of it.
Palliative surgery addresses symptoms, discomforts or corrects problems of advanced or untreatable cancer. It does not cure or treat cancer but improves the patient’s quality of life by easing the pain.
Supportive surgery makes other cancer treatments work effectively. For example, chemotherapy requires a vascular access device or a catheter to be inserted.
Restorative or reconstructive surgery restores the body’s appearance, or the function of an organ or body part, after major surgery, such as a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.
Preventative surgery removes tissue that is likely to become cancerous even though there are no signs of cancer at the time of the surgery. Although not guaranteeing cancer prevention, it reduces the cancer risk. Preventative cancer surgery is typically recommended for patients that have a family history of cancer or carry cancer genes, identified in a hereditary or genetic cancer screening.