Sometimes, the surgeon cannot remove the entire tumour as removing it might cause too much damage to the body. In this situation, the surgery procedure is used to remove most of the tumour. Other treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, may be used to shrink the remaining cancer. These treatments may also be given before surgery to help shrink the tumour so it can be removed.
Palliative surgery is used to relieve side effects caused by a tumour. It plays an important role in improving the quality of life for patients with advanced cancer or widespread disease.
For example, surgery may be used to:
- Relieve pain or restore physical function when a tumour causes the following complications:
- Pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord
- Blockage of the bowel or intestines
- Pressure or blockage elsewhere in the body.
To stop bleeding. Certain cancers are more likely to cause bleeding, including:
- Cancers in areas with a high concentration of blood vessels, such as the uterus,
- Cancers in organs that are fragile and can easily bleed when food and waste products pass through, such as the oesophagus, stomach, and bowel.
Bleeding may also be a side effect of some drugs used to treat cancer. When surgery is needed to stop bleeding, a common technique is suture ligation. This surgery involves tying blood vessels using surgical thread.
Reconstructive or plastic surgery may be an option to restore the body's appearance or function. The surgery can be done at the same time during the removal of the tumour. It also can be done later after the patient recovers or received additional treatment.
Some surgery is performed to reduce the risk of developing cancer. For example, doctors often recommend the removal of precancerous polyps in the colon to prevent colon cancer. In addition, women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancers or known mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast and ovarian cancer genes may decide to have a mastectomy or oophorectomy to lower the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. A mastectomy is the removal of a breast, whereas an oophorectomy is the removal of the ovaries.
Conventional surgery often requires large incisions. In some situations, a surgeon can use one or more small incisions. These surgeries typically result in shorter recovery times and less pain after the procedure.
Below are some examples of minimally invasive procedures and surgeries:
The doctor performs surgery through small incisions in the skin using a thin, lighted tube with a camera. The term laparoscopy refers to a minimally invasive surgery of the abdomen. The terms, mediastinoscopy and thoracoscopy are used when the same type of procedure is performed in the chest. Laparoscopic surgery may also be done with robotic assistance for some surgeries. During this type of surgery, the surgeon directs robotic instruments to perform the surgery. This surgical procedure may be used for the kidneys, a man’s prostate, or a woman’s uterus or ovaries.
The doctor uses a narrow beam of high-intensity light to remove cancerous tissue.
The doctor uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill abnormal cells.
Mohs micrographic surgery, also called microscopically controlled surgery
The dermatologist shaves off a skin cancer, one layer at a time, until all cells in a layer appear to be normal cells when viewed under a microscope.
The doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the tip, into the body. It may be inserted into the mouth, rectum, or vagina to examine internal organs. During an endoscopic procedure, it is possible to remove samples of potentially abnormal tissue for further examination.