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Understanding Cancer Surgery

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

Perhaps no other word carries such weight — cancer. It’s a life-changing diagnosis for the people who receive it, and for their loved ones and friends. But when diagnosed early, the options for cancer care are many.

One of the most effective and versatile treatments for cancer is surgery. However, treatment is just one way surgery can help fight cancer. Today, it is used for a variety of purposes, often in combination with other innovative treatments.

Understanding cancer surgery

From preventing cancer to alleviating its symptoms, there are several types of oncologic surgical approaches, including:

  1. Preventive – Also known as prophylactic surgery, preventive surgery is done to remove body tissue that is likely to become cancerous. For example, some women with a high risk of breast cancer choose to remove the breasts before cancer is found.

  2. Diagnosis – This procedure, called a biopsy, involves taking a tissue sample for testing. Test results will confirm or deny the presence of cancer and identify its type.

  3. Staging – To find out how much cancer is present and how far it has spread, staging surgery allows the doctors to examine the area around the cancer, including lymph nodes and nearby organs. This provides information to guide treatment decisions and predict treatment responses.

  4. Curative – Also called primary surgery, curative surgery can be effective in removing all cancer that is concentrated in one part of the body. In other cases, it is used with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which can be given before or after the operation.

  5. Debulking – Used to remove a portion (not all) of the cancer, this surgical technique is sometimes done when taking out an entire tumor would damage nearby organs or tissues.

  6. Palliative – This procedure is used to help ease problems caused by cancer, but not to treat or cure the cancer itself. Palliative surgery is done to relieve intense pain that cannot be controlled with medications or other therapies, or to remove obstructions or blockages caused by advanced cancers.

  7. Supportive – This surgery makes receiving other types of treatment easier. For example, a supportive procedure can involve inserting a port for chemotherapy to avoid the need to puncture the skin for each treatment.

  8. Restorative – When cancer treatments damage a body part’s function or appearance, reconstructive surgery is performed to help repair that damage. Not to be confused with cosmetic procedures, reconstructive surgeries are done for medical purposes only.

Internationally recognized cancer care in San Antonio

If you or a loved one’s life has been changed with a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to know that you have an excellent network of support close to home.

At the START Center for Cancer Care, we are fully dedicated to providing the highest quality cancer care to the people of San Antonio and South Texas. START care is all about complete and unfailing support before, during and after your treatment. It means you have access to one of the world’s largest Phase I clinical trials, the most advanced testing and treatments and more.

To meet our caring staff, schedule an appointment by call 909-536-1493, or click here to use our online form.


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