Cancer Surgery (Operation): Understanding Types, Risks, and Recovery

Cancer Surgery: Understanding Types, Risks, and Recovery

Understanding Cancer Surgery

Cancer surgery is a common treatment for various types of cancer. It involves the removal of cancerous tissue or organs to prevent the spread of cancer cells. There are different types of cancer surgeries, each with its own risks and recovery process.

Cancer surgery is a common treatment option for many types of cancer, and understanding the types of surgeries available, the associated risks, and the recovery process can help patients make informed decisions about their care.

Explanation: Cancer surgery is typically performed by a surgical oncologist, a specialist trained in cancer surgery.

The type of surgery

The type of surgery depends on the location, size, and stage of the cancer. Some common types of cancer surgeries include:

  • Lumpectomy: Removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue in the breast for early-stage breast cancer.
  • Mastectomy: Removal of the entire breast for advanced breast cancer.
  • Radical mastectomy: Removal of the breast, chest muscle, and axillary lymph nodes for advanced breast cancer.
  • Prostatectomy: Removal of the prostate gland for prostate cancer.
  • Colectomy: Removal of a portion of the colon for colon cancer.
  • Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus for uterine cancer.
  • Excisional biopsy: Removal of an entire tumor or abnormal tissue for further examination.
  • Whipple procedure: Removal of the head of the pancreas, duodenum, and part of the stomach for pancreatic cancer.
  • Laryngectomy: Removal of the larynx for laryngeal cancer.
  • Nephrectomy: Removal of a kidney for kidney cancer.
  • Esophagectomy: Removal of part of the esophagus for esophageal cancer.
  • Thyroidectomy: Removal of the thyroid gland for thyroid cancer.
  • Pneumonectomy: Removal of a lung for lung cancer.
  • Cystectomy: Removal of the bladder for bladder cancer.
  • Oophorectomy: Removal of one or both ovaries for ovarian cancer.
    Radical neck dissection: Removal of lymph nodes, muscles, and other tissues in the neck for head and neck cancers.
  • Limb-sparing surgery: Removal of cancerous tissue in the arm or leg while preserving the limb for bone or soft tissue cancers.
  • Craniotomy: Removal of a portion of the skull to access the brain for brain tumors.
  • Adrenalectomy: Removal of one or both adrenal glands for adrenal cancer or benign tumors.
  • Hepatectomy: Removal of part of the liver for liver cancer.
  • Gastrectomy: Removal of part or all of the stomach for stomach cancer.
  • Pancreatectomy: Removal of part or all of the pancreas for pancreatic cancer.
  • Splenectomy: Removal of the spleen for spleen cancer or other blood-related cancers.
  • Radical prostatectomy: Removal of the entire prostate gland and surrounding tissue for prostate cancer.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: Removal of the first lymph node that cancer is likely to spread to for melanoma or breast cancer.
  • Parotidectomy: Removal of the parotid gland for parotid tumors or cancers.
  • Radical cystectomy: Removal of the bladder, nearby lymph nodes, and other organs for advanced bladder cancer.
  • Pelvic exenteration: Removal of all pelvic organs, including the bladder, rectum, and reproductive organs, for advanced pelvic cancers.
  • Proctectomy: Removal of the rectum for advanced rectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
    Esophagogastrectomy: Removal of part of the esophagus and stomach for esophageal or gastric cancer.
  • Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT): Removal of bladder tumors using a special instrument passed through the urethra for early-stage bladder cancer.
  • Thymectomy: Removal of the thymus gland for thymus cancer or myasthenia gravis.
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): Removal of early-stage gastrointestinal cancers using an endoscope.
  • Trachelectomy: Removal of the cervix for early-stage cervical cancer while preserving the uterus and fertility.
  • Total mesorectal excision (TME): Removal of the rectum and surrounding lymph nodes for rectal cancer.
  • Peritonectomy: Removal of the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity, for advanced abdominal cancers.
  • Transoral robotic surgery (TORS): Removal of tumors in the mouth and throat using robotic instruments.
  • Sentinel lymph node mapping: Injection of a dye to locate and remove the first lymph node that cancer is likely to spread to for various types of cancer, including melanoma, breast, and cervical cancer.
  • Skin cancer surgery: Removal of skin cancer using various techniques, including excision, Mohs surgery, and cryosurgery.
  • Thoracotomy: Open-chest surgery for lung cancer or other conditions affecting the lungs or chest.
  • Radical inguinal orchiectomy: Removal of the affected testicle through an incision in the groin area. This is the most common treatment for early-stage testicular cancer.
  • Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND): Removal of the lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen for some types of testicular cancer, particularly if the cancer has spread beyond the testicle.
  • Salvage surgery: Surgery to remove any remaining cancer cells in the retroperitoneal lymph nodes after chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • High-para-aortic lymph node dissection (HPLND): Removal of the lymph nodes in the upper part of the abdomen for some types of testicular cancer.

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Methods of cancer surgeries

Methods of cancer surgeries vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s individual circumstances.

Here are some common methods of cancer surgeries:

It is sometimes possible to distinguish between two types of surgery: minor surgery and major surgery, although some procedures have similarities with both.

Remember, each cancer and individual case is unique, so it’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.

Some methods of cancer surgeries:
  • Open surgery: Traditional surgery in which a large incision is made to access the tumor and surrounding tissue.
  • Excisional biopsy: Removal of an entire tumor or abnormal tissue for further examination.
  • En bloc resection: Removal of the tumor and surrounding tissues in one piece for sarcomas or other tumors in the soft tissues.
  • Endoscopic surgery: Minimally invasive surgery in which a thin, flexible tube with a camera and surgical tools attached is inserted through a small incision to access the tumor and surrounding tissue.
  • Cryosurgery: Freezing of cancerous tissue to destroy it. A technique that uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells, often used for small tumors on the skin or in the liver or lung.
  • Laser surgery: Use of high-intensity light to destroy cancerous cells.
  • Mohs surgery: Layer-by-layer removal of skin cancer.
  • Robotic surgery: Use of robotic technology to perform minimally invasive cancer surgery.
  • Cytoreductive surgery: Removal of as much of the visible tumor as possible for advanced cancers, followed by chemotherapy to target any remaining cancer cells.
  • Radiation surgery (stereotactic radiosurgery): A non-invasive procedure that delivers a high dose of radiation to the tumor, typically used for brain tumors or tumors in other parts of the body that are difficult to access with traditional surgery.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: A procedure that uses heat generated by high-frequency electrical currents to destroy cancer cells, often used for liver, kidney, or lung tumors.

Examples: In some cases, cancer surgery may be the only treatment needed, while in other cases, it may be combined with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy. For example, a patient with early-stage breast cancer may undergo a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. A patient with advanced colon cancer may undergo a colectomy followed by chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

As with all types of cancer surgeries, the recommended approach will depend on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s individual circumstances. It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your healthcare team to ensure you fully understand your treatment options and can make informed decisions about your care.


Risks associated with cancer surgery include bleeding, infection, and damage to nearby organs. Recovery time varies depending on the type of surgery and individual factors such as age and overall health. In general, patients can expect some pain and discomfort after surgery, but medication can help manage it. Physical therapy may be recommended to help patients regain strength and mobility.

Other few examples can be cited:
  • Blood loss
  • Infection or pain, often at the scar
  • Tiredness
  • Venous thrombosis or phlebitis (a vein becomes clogged and blocks blood circulation)
  • In the event of a transplant, there may be rejection of the organ.
  • Etc.

The risks of surgery are multiple and more or less likely depending on the situation. Some surgeries have higher risks: heart or lung surgery, liver surgery, abdominal surgeries, prostate removal, or major bone and joint surgery. And, some patients will have a higher risk of complications, due to their state of health: malnutrition, diabetes, obesity, a history of heart failure are all factors that increase the surgical risk.

In conclusion, cancer surgery is an effective treatment option for many types of cancer. It’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with your doctor and to carefully consider all available treatment options. With proper care and follow-up, many patients can recover from cancer surgery and live cancer-free for years to come.

Photo credit: Joshua_seajw92 via Pixabay

Sources: PinterPandai, Cancer Research UK, Mayo Clinic, Cancer.Net

Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

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