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Understanding Cancer Surgery

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Surgery is the oldest traditional form of cancer treatment, but it also can be used to diagnose (biopsy), determine how far the cancer has spread (staging), and relieve side effects or ease pain (palliative surgery).

Modern surgical cancer treatment tools and techniques are less invasive than in the past and offer improved precision, resulting in more effective treatment and faster recovery times.

Types of Cancer surgery include:

  • Curative surgery: Performed when a tumor appears to be confined to one area and it is likely that all of the tumor can be removed. It may be used along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which can be given before or after the operation
  • Debulking surgery: Debulking surgery is done when removing all of a tumor would cause too much damage to nearby organs or tissues. Much of the tumor is removed, and the remaining tumor is treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Diagnostic surgery, such as a biopsy​
  • Disease-specific surgeries and systems, like:
    • Moh's surgery: a special type of surgery used to treat some skin cancers
    • daVinci Surgical System for treatment of prostate cancer
    • Laparoscopic prostatectomy
  • Palliative surgery: Used to treat symptoms of advanced cancer. It may also be done to correct a problem that is causing pain or disability
  • Preventative surgery: Removes body tissue that is non-cancerous, but is likely to become cancer. An example is the removal of pre-cancerous polyps in the colon
  • Reconstructive surgery: Restores a person's appearance or the function of a body part. An example is breast reconstruction after mastectomy
  • Staging surgery: Performed to find out how much cancer there is and how far it has spread
  • Supportive surgery: Assists with other types of treatment. An example is surgery to place a catheter for chemotherapy treatments​
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 Breast Biopsy Video

What Do You Know About Breast Cancer?

Test your knowledge of breast cancer by taking this quiz.

1. Finding breast cancer early is the key to successful treatment.
2. Older women are more likely to develop breast cancer.
3. Most breast lumps are cancerous.
4. It's OK to use deodorant on the day you have a mammogram.
5. Women who drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day increase their risk for breast cancer.
6. Women who have their first child before age 30 and breastfeed for longer than 6 months are less likely to develop breast cancer.
7. Smoking may increase your risk for breast cancer.
8. Breast cancer can be treated by surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
9. Starting at age 30, women should have a mammogram every 1 or 2 years.
10. A woman's chances of developing breast cancer are higher if her mother, a sister, or daughter had it.
11. It's safe for women to use hormone therapy for a prolonged time during menopause.
12. Regular exercise can reduce your risk for breast cancer.
13. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women.