Review: Surgery

Here is what we have learned from Surgery:

Any treatment that is given to modify, control, remove or destroy primary or metastatic cancer tissue is cancer directed treatment. Non-cancer directed treatment refers to any treatment or procedure designed to diagnose or stage the disease, prepare the patient for cancer-directed treatment, prolong a patient's life, alleviate pain, or make the patient comfortable.

First course of treatment includes all methods of treatment recorded in the treatment plan and administered to the patient before disease progression or recurrence.

Surgery is the oldest form of treatment for cancer.

Ancient Egyptians first conducted medical operations with very primitive surgical tools such as knives, drills, saws, hooks, forceps, and pinchers, some of which, modified somewhat, are still used for surgical purpose today.

New, improved, and more effective surgical tools include laser and radiation (gamma knife).

Diagnostic surgery involves physically removing a sample of a suspected tumor and examining this material under a microscope so that a definite diagnosis can be made. This procedure is called biopsy.

Types of biopsies include incisional biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, colposcopic biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, and core biopsy. Refer to "All About Biopsies (PDF)" for more details.

Surgeries with the intent of removal of the cancer take a much more definitive surgical approach, partially or totally removing the organ of origin. In addition to excisional biopsy, excisional surgeries where more traditional surgical tools such as scalpels are used, other surgeries use modern surgical tools including laser (laser surgery), high-frequency electrical currents (electrosurgery), and radiation (gamma knife), even liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery).

Minimally invasive surgical techniques make use of laparoscopic and robotic approaches to primary surgery.

In preventive surgery, the surgeon removes tissue that does not yet contain cancer cells, but has the probability of becoming cancerous in the future. Oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) is one of the examples of preventive surgery against ovarian cancer.

Palliative surgery is performed to make the patient's life as comfortable as possible or to prolong the patient's life when the disease is not amendable to any type of intent that totally removes the cancer.

Finally, reconstructive surgery may be performed to repair the damage caused by the cancer or the primary surgery as well as to improve functions of certain anatomic parts of the body.

Updated: December 21, 2023