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.
Some terms commonly used to describe cancer surgery include:
- emergency surgery – life-saving surgery that has to happen as soon as possible to treat an acute illness
- wide local excision – a surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue and some healthy tissue around it
- radical excision or resection – 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 the area near the cancer
- 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 cancer treatments are usually recommended instead.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.