A Guide to Cancer Surgery

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Some things to remember about cancer surgery

The best chance of a cure from many types of cancer is to remove all of the cancer as soon as possible after diagnosis. If you have a solid tumor, sometimes surgery alone will cure the cancer, but you might need chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatment, too. Your health care team will discuss your best treatment options with you.

If you have any concerns about surgery or cancer, discuss this issue with the people who know your situation best – your surgeon and other members of your cancer care team.

You can also call us at 1-800-227-2345 any time you have questions or need help. The American Cancer Society has information, resources, and support available on many cancer-related topics.

Cancer terms you might hear

Here are keys to help you say the cancer terms used here. The words are in ABC order:

anesthesia = AN-es-THEE-zhuh

anesthesiologist = AN-es-THEE-zee-AHL-uh-jist

aspiration = ASP-er-AY-shun

autologous transfusion = aw-TAHL-uh-gus trans-FEW-zhun)

biopsy = BY-op-see

colonoscopy = KO-lun-AH-skuh-pee

colostomy = kuh-LAHS-tuh-mee

cryosurgery = CRY-o-SUR-juh-ree

curative = KUR-uh-tiv

cytoreductive = SY-toe-ree-DUK-tiv

endoscope = EN-doe-scope

endoscopy = en-DAHS-kuh-pee

endotracheal = EN-doe-TRAKE-ee-ul

impotence = IM-puh-tense

incision = in-SIH-zhun

incisional biopsy = in-SIH-zhun-ul BY-op-see

incontinence = in-KON-tuh-nense

intraoperative = IN-truh-OP-er-ah-tiv

laparoscope = LAP-uh-ruh-scope

laparoscopic = LAP-uh-ruh-SKAH-pick

laparoscopy= LAP-uh-RAHS-kuh-pee

laparotomy = LAP-uh-ROT-uh-mee

mastectomy = mas-TEK-tuh-mee

mediastinoscopy = ME-dee-uh-stin-AH-skuh-pee

ostomy = OS-tuh-mee

palliative = PAL-ee-uh-tiv

photoablation = FOE-toe-uh-BLAY-shun

photocoagulation = FOE-toe-ko-ag-you-LAY-shun

pneumonia = new-MOAN-yuh

polyps = PAH-lips

prophylactic = PRO-fuh-LACK-tik

radical prostatectomy = RAD-ick-uhl PROS-tuh-TECK-tuh-mee

thoracoscope = thor-ACK-uh-scope

thoracoscopic = thor-ACK-uh-SKAH-pick

thoracoscopy = THOR-uh-KAH-skuh-pee

thoracotomy = THOR-uh-KOT-uh-mee

To learn more

More information from your American Cancer Society

The following related information may also be helpful to you. These free materials may be ordered from our toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345, or read online at www.cancer.org.

Talking about and coping with cancer

After Diagnosis: A Guide for Patients and Families (also in Spanish)

Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Treatment (also in Spanish)

Talking With Your Doctor (also in Spanish)

Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home: A Guide for Patients and Families (also in Spanish)

Nutrition for Children With Cancer (also in Spanish)

Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families (also in Spanish)

Distress in People With Cancer

Sexuality for the Man With Cancer (also in Spanish)

Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer (also in Spanish)

More on other aspects of cancer surgery

Blood Transfusion and Donation

Lasers in Cancer Treatment

Other cancer treatment options

A Guide to Chemotherapy (also in Spanish)

Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families (also in Spanish)

Targeted Therapy

Cancer Immunotherapy

Clinical Trials: What You Need to Know (also in Spanish)

Complementary and Alternative Methods and Cancer

Work and finance information

Health Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient (also in Spanish)

In Treatment: Financial Guidance for Cancer Survivors and Their Families (also in Spanish)

Working During Cancer Treatment

Returning to Work After Cancer Treatment

Americans With Disabilities Act: Information for People Facing Cancer (also in Spanish)

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (also in Spanish)

What Is COBRA? (also in Spanish)

Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Financial and Insurance Issues


Your American Cancer Society also has books that you might find helpful. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit our bookstore online at www.cancer.org/bookstore to find out about costs or to place an order.

National organizations and websites*

Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support include:

American College of Surgeons
Website: www.facs.org

    Patient education website, “Surgical Patient Education Program” can be found at: www.facs.org/patienteducation. It has information that can help surgical patients and their families learn about operations and surgical care, find a surgeon, and better prepare for surgery.

National Cancer Institute
Toll-free number: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
TTY: 1-800-332-8615
Website: www.cancer.gov

    Provides accurate, up-to-date information on many cancer-related topics to patients, their families, and the general public

*Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.

No matter who you are, we can help. Contact us anytime, day or night, for cancer-related information and support. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.

Last Medical Review: 09/03/2014
Last Revised: 09/29/2014