The treatment plan depends mainly on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. Doctors also consider the patient’s age and general health. Often, the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer. In other cases, the goal is to control the disease or to reduce symptoms for as long as possible. The treatment plan may change over time.
Your doctor can describe your treatment choices and the expected results. You and your doctor can work together to decide on a treatment plan that is best for you.
A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out whether disease is present. An operation.
For many solid tumors, surgery is an essential part of the treatment. Surgery is a local therapy to remove the tumor. Tissue around the tumor and nearby lymph nodes may also be removed during the operation. Sometimes radiation or chemotherapy is used first to shrink the tumor before it is removed. Shrinking the tumor makes the surgery easier.
Curative surgery simply involves removal of a cancerous tumor. It works best on localized cancers that haven’t yet spread to other parts of the body, and is often followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy to make sure all cancerous cells have been removed.
Preventive surgery is used to keep cancer from occurring. Many colon cancers can be prevented by removing precancerous polyps before they become malignant. A woman at very high risk for breast cancer may decide to have her breasts removed rather than worry about getting breast cancer later in life.
Diagnostic surgery (biopsy): In this procedure, the surgeon removes some or all of a tumor for examination to determine if the growth is cancerous. A biopsy can be done in several ways:
Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): a needle is inserted into the tumor and material is drawn out for inspection under a microscope.
Incisional or excisional biopsy: the patient is put under local or regional anesthesia, which numbs the area, and a small incision is made in the skin. The surgeon either removes a piece of a large tumor (incisional), or the entire mass (excisional), for further examination. If the tumor is in the chest or abdomen, general anesthesia is used.
Staging surgery is used to determine the extent of a cancer. This procedure can sometimes be done without an incision by using tiny cameras (scopes) attached to a flexible tube, which are inserted into natural body openings. An endoscope is used in hollow body cavities and organs such as the lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract. Besides allowing surgeons to view the suspicious area, these devices can take a tissue sample. A laparascope is used to view the abdominal cavity. Laparotomy involves a small incision in the abdominal cavity, done under general anesthesia. Laparotomies are used when the suspicious area cannot be examined by less invasive procedures.
Supportive surgery is used to help with other cancer treatments. For example, some chemotherapy devices require a port (connecting device) to be inserted under the skin.
Reconstructive surgery returns the body to normal or near-normal appearance or function following cancer treatment. The most common restorative surgery is reconstruction of a breast after a mastectomy. Facial reconstruction and testicular implants are also examples of reconstructive surgery.
Palliative surgery is only used to ease pain, disability or other complications that come with advanced cancer. Palliative surgery may improve quality of life, but is not a cure or anti-cancer treatment.
MD Anderson Childhood Cancer Treatments. Houston, TX: MD Anderson. Retrieved August 15, 2011 from http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-topics/cancer-treatment/surgery/index.html
National Institute of Health. Types of Cancers 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/youngpeople/page5#E2
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