A Guide to Cancer Surgery

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Learning about cancer surgery

You’ve been told you have cancer. You’ve looked at your treatment options, and you and your doctor agree that surgery is needed. Now you may have questions about cancer surgery.

The American Cancer Society knows that you may have concerns about surgery, and we have answers to many of your questions. At the end of this information you’ll also find a list of words and how to say them. Learning more about cancer surgery and the words used to talk about it can help you when talking to your cancer care team.

Remember that, along with reading about surgery, you can also count on your doctor and nurse to answer your questions. Open and honest talks with your cancer care team are the best way to understand what’s going on with you, your body, and the cancer.

Surgery has been used to treat cancer for many, many years. Surgery also plays a key role in diagnosing cancer and finding out how far it may have spread (a process is called staging). Ongoing advances in surgical techniques allow surgeons to operate on a growing number of patients and have good outcomes.

When a surgeon has to cut into the body to operate, it’s called invasive surgery. Today, operations that involve less cutting (less invasive surgery) often can be done to remove tumors while saving as much normal tissue and function as possible.

Surgery offers the greatest chance for a cure for many types of cancer, especially those that have not spread to other parts of the body. Most people with cancer will have some type of surgery.

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