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Cancer Surgery

Cancer surgery is an operation done to remove some part of body tissue, and some of its surrounding tissue to diagnose or treat cancer. Cancer surgery is considered the oldest type of cancer treatment.

Reasons for Undergoing Cancer Surgery

There are different reasons for undergoing cancer surgery including:

  • Prevention: To prevent cancer if you have a high risk of developing it in certain organs or tissues. Your oncologist might recommend removing the high cancer risk organs and tissue before the cancer develops. This is usually recommended to those people who are genetically predisposed to developing cancer. For instance, if one has a BRCA gene mutation, they are at a greater risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer in future.
  • Diagnosis: To diagnose cancer by removing part of the affected tissue so it can be studied under a microscope. This can determine whether the growth is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
  • Staging: To determine the stage of the cancer by evaluating the size of the growth and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Primary treatment: For most types of cancer, cancer surgery is usually the best type of treatment especially if the cancer has been caught early or is localized.
  • Debulking: Cancer surgery is used in debulking, which is removing as much cancerous cells as possible from an organ or tissue before the patient undergoes chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Palliation: Cancer surgery can be done to relieve symptoms and side effects rather than treating the cancer itself such as removing a tumor that is blocking the intestine. This is known as palliation surgery.
  • Reconstruction: Reconstruction surgery can be done following the main surgery to remove a tumor. It is done to restore the appearance and function of the body. An example is breast reconstruction after mastectomy and restoring an individual’s appearance and function following head and neck surgery.

Depending on the types of cancer surgery the patient is undergoing and the time it’ll take to heal, the operation may be performed at a doctor’s office, clinic, surgery center, or hospital. The surgery might be outpatient or inpatient. Outpatient means that the patient does not have to stay in the hospital overnight before or after the operation while inpatient means that the patient stays overnight or longer while recovering from the surgery.

Traditional Cancer Surgery Procedure

Conventionally, the main purpose of cancer surgery is to essentially cure the cancer by removing all of it from the body. This entails the surgeon making an incision into your body and removing the cancer growth together with some of the surrounding healthy tissue to ensure that all of the cancer is removed.

In cases of breast cancer, a portion that has the cancer may be removed plus some of the surrounding tissue (lumpectomy) or the entire breast may be removed (mastectomy) if the cancer has spread to most parts of the breast or to prevent future recurrence of the cancer.

In cases of lung cancer, to ensure the removal of all the cancer, the entire lung is removed (pneumonectomy). Other times a part of one lung is removed (lobectomy).

During cancer surgery, the lymph nodes surrounding the operated area are usually removed to check if the cancer has spread.

Cancer Surgery Techniques

There are various cancer surgery techniques and they include:

  • Laser surgery: This entails the oncologist using a beam of high intensity light to remove the cancerous growths.
  • Cryosurgery: Involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cancer cells.
  • Laparoscopic surgery: This is a minimally invasive procedure and it involves using a thin, lighted tube with a camera that is inserted into the body through a small incision to guide the surgeon. Robotic instruments guided by the surgeon are used to perform the surgery.
  • Endoscopy: This involves inserting an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at its tip) into the mouth, rectum, or vagina to examine the internal organs. In the process it can remove samples of suspicious tissue to be examined further.
  • Electrosurgery: This involves applying high frequency electrical currents to kill cancer cells especially in the mouth or skin.
  • Mohs surgery: This is used for removing cancer from certain sensitive areas of the skin by removing layer by layer of the skin with a scalpel and examining it to assess how deep the cancer has reached. It is done until all the abnormal cells have been removed. It is especially used near the eye area.

Risks of Cancer Surgery

The cancer surgery technique you undergo determines the side effects that you are likely to experience. Generally, the most common side effects of cancer surgery include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of organ function
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Altered bladder and bowel function

Cancer surgery is often combined with other types of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. The type of cancer surgery you can undergo is determined by the type of cancer you have, its stage, and your overall health status, family history and genetic predisposition.

Next Step

At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service. From initial consultation through to final diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors and nurses, and technologists led by Dr Hassan Ghazal – an American triple board-certified Consultant Medical Oncologist and a Consultant Clinical Hematologist with more than 3 decades of clinical experience, are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you may have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.

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