How can surgery treat cancer?

Doctors treat cancer in a number of ways including radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.

Surgery is the oldest method of treatment. If a tumor is relatively localized, it can be removed surgically. Often, some of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor is also removed to ensure all the malignant cells have been removed.

Surgery is commonly used for cancer of the colon, breast, mouth, head and neck, testes, kidney and other parts of the body. Surgery also can be used to remove precancerous tissue (tissue that may become cancerous if left untreated) and can be used to relieve symptoms caused by the cancer. Often, surgery is combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation to improve results.

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
Surgical treatment of cancer involves removal of the tumor with free tissue margins. Surgical removal involves excision with either a scalpel or electrocautery device. The specimen must be evaluated by pathology for diagnosis and margin clearance. Other forms of treatment include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. 
Surgery is an operation that is used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. It is performed to:
  • Remove precancerous tissues
  • Take tissue samples for identification and diagnosis
  • Assess the disease
  • Remove full or partial tumors

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.