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Introduction to Surgery

Based on descriptions of discovered Egyptian papyri, surgeries were performed by the ancient Egyptians. The tools they used for surgery included knives, drills, saws, hooks, forceps, and pinchers. Some of these tools, somewhat modified, are still used for surgical purposes today. In contrast with the role played by surgery in the past, surgery is more important now than ever. Surgical technology and techniques are so advanced that surgery is able to accomplish what ancient surgeons never dreamed of. Surgery is used for a great variety of diseases, including cancer treatment. In fact, it is the oldest form of treatment for cancer and until the mid 20th century, surgery was considered the only treatment modality that could cure patients with cancer.

Cancer surgery attempts to completely remove localized tumors or reduce the size of large tumors so that follow-up treatment by radiation or chemotherapy will be more effective.

Other than its curative purpose, cancer surgery may be done as a diagnostic (staging) process or a preventive measure. Surgeries are also performed to relieve pain or repair deformities and abnormalities caused by surgical treatment for cancer.

Sometimes, surgeries for different purposes may take place simultaneously. For example, curative surgery may be performed right after a diagnostic surgery or a curative surgery may be followed by a reconstructive surgery.

Generally surgery involves cutting into the body (incision) to explore or remove tissue while the patient is under anesthesia.

Surgical techniques used for surgery include cryosurgery, electrocauterization surgery, laser surgery, gamma knife, and en bloc resection. These techniques will be discussed in detail later.