How does cancer surgery work?
For any surgery, you will have anesthesia, so you don’t feel anything. Depending on where the surgery is done on your body, you may have local or regional anesthesia that numbs a certain part of your body, or general anesthesia that puts you into a deep sleep.
The surgery may be done in the hospital, an outpatient surgery center, or the doctor’s office or clinic. It depends on the kind of surgery and how complex it is.
When is cancer surgery used?
Surgery is used primarily when the cancer is in one place and can be removed safely.
For some cancer (like blood cancers), surgery is not an option because it’s not possible to remove the cancer that way. Or it may not be possible to remove the cancer without damaging the body. Sometimes the surgeon will be able to remove part, but not all, of a tumor without damaging the body.
While cancer presents itself differently in every body, surgery is often used to treat: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and gynecological cancers (cervical, uterine, and ovarian).
Specialized Cancer Surgery
- Endoscopic biopsy. An endoscope is a small, flexible tube that can be easily inserted into the body without large cuts (incisions). It allows doctors to see inside the body using a light and video camera. The doctor uses small surgical tools on the endoscope to perform the biopsy.
- Surgical biopsy. This requires cutting through the skin to reach the tissue sample. In some cases, only a small sample is removed (incisional biopsy). In others, a lump or tumor is completely removed (excisional biopsy).