Surgery may be used to perform a biopsy in order to obtain a specimen for determining an accurate diagnosis, provide local treatment of the cancer, and obtain other information to help determine whether additional treatment is necessary. Surgical techniques continue to improve, and surgeries are now less invasive and often performed on an outpatient basis. The following definitions of terms used to describe surgery may be helpful.
- Biopsy is the removal of a piece of tissue from an organ or other part of the body for microscopic examination to confirm or establish a diagnosis, estimate prognosis, or follow the course of a disease.
- Curative surgery is the removal of the entire tumor. Even after curative surgery, you may still be given chemotherapy or radiation to kill micro-metastases. Micro-metastases are cancer cells that may still be in the body but cannot be detected by current technology.
- Cryosurgery involves the use of liquid nitrogen or a very cold probe to freeze cancer cells.
- Debulking surgery is when the entire cancer cannot be removed without serious damage to the body so the surgeon takes out only that portion of the tumor that can be removed safely. The rest of the tumor may be killed with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
- Electrosurgery uses an electrical current to destroy cancer cells.
- Laser surgery is surgery in which a beam of light is used instead of a scalpel.
- Mohs surgery is the removal of skin cancer by shaving off one layer at a time. The dermatologist (skin doctor) looks at each layer under a microscope. When the layers look normal (no cancer) the surgeon stops removing skin.
- Prophylactic surgery is surgery used to prevent cancer when there is a good chance that a particular body tissue will become cancerous in the future.
- Palliative surgery is a type of surgery that does not treat the underlying disease but is done to control symptoms of cancer, such as pain.
- Restorative or reconstructive surgery is commonly called plastic surgery. This type of surgery restores the function and appearance of an area after a previous surgery.
- Staging surgery is surgery used to determine the extent of the cancer, or how large it is and how much it has spread throughout the body. This is very important, as it will determine the course of treatment.