Surgery to treat cancer
The type of surgery used to treat cancer depends on the type of cancer, its location and stage, and your general health. Learn the different ways surgery is used to treat cancer.
Some of the terms commonly used to describe surgery include:
- elective surgery – surgery that is necessary to treat a diagnosed illness, but is safe to be delayed; patients are placed on an elective surgery waiting list; most cancer surgery is elective surgery
- emergency surgery – life-saving surgery that has to happen as soon as possible to treat an acute illness, e.g. surgery to remove a tumour that is blocking the bowel
- marginal excision – a surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue with a close or no margin
- wide local excision – a surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue and some healthy tissue around it
- radical resection – a type of extensive surgery that aims to remove the diseased organ or tumour; may also remove the blood supply, lymph nodes and, sometimes, attached structures
- lymphadenectomy (lymph node dissection) – removal of some or all lymph nodes from a part of the body
- inoperable – not able to be removed surgically; this may be because there is no lump of tissue that can be removed (as with blood cancers), or because it is not possible to safely remove all the cancerous tissue. Other treatments such as drug therapies or radiation therapy may be recommended.
To learn more, see our information about specific cancer types, or call 13 11 20.
Prof Andrew Spillane, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Professor of Surgical Oncology, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, NSW; Lynne Hendrick, Consumer; Judy Holland, Physiotherapist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Kara Hutchinson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Stephan Schug, Director of Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, and Chair of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, The University of Western Australia Medical School, WA; Dr Emma Secomb, Specialist Surgeon, Hinterland Surgical Centre, QLD. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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