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The Cancer Care Center

Type of Cancer

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Sandy Rausch shows off the purse she made in a cancer art therapy session

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The Cancer Care Center

Surgical oncology

Surgical oncology is a specialty that focuses on using surgical methods to treat cancer. Usually, this means surgically removing the tumor or cancerous mass.

About surgery as a cancer treatment

Surgery is often a cornerstone of a treatment plan for patients with cancer. It may be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes, you will undergo chemotherapy or radiation prior to surgery, in order to shrink the tumor as much as possible and make it easier to remove. Other times, you will first have surgery, and then chemotherapy or radiation can destroy any remaining cancer cells.

A surgical oncologist often receives extra training in performing surgery on cancer patients. At the Cancer Care Center, our surgical oncologists have years of experience in using surgery to treat both primary tumors, and those that have spread to other parts of the body, known as metastatic cancer. Your surgical oncologist works in conjunction with your medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. Together, they create a personalized treatment plan for you. Meet our cancer physicians.

When would I have surgery?

  • Prevent cancer: Your doctor may remove precancerous polyps, for example.
  • Diagnose cancer: You may undergo a biopsy, in which tissue from a suspicious mass is removed and analyzed for cancer.
  • Stage cancer: To determine how far the cancer has spread.
  • Cure cancer: Sometimes, the doctor is able to remove the entire tumor, if the cancer has not spread, and no other cancer treatments are necessary.
  • Shrink the tumor: If removing the entire tumor might damage surrounding tissues and nerves, your doctor may remove some of it. Chemotherapy and radiation follow to destroy remaining cancer cells.
  • Relieve symptoms: Sometimes, a tumor might be pressing on a bone or nerve, so your doctor will perform surgery to remove it.
  • Reconstruct your body after cancer: Restorative, or reconstructive, surgery aims to return you to how you looked and functioned before cancer. This is common after a mastectomy, for breast cancer, or after head and neck cancers.

How are the surgeries performed?

At St. Anthony’s Cancer Care Center, our doctors aim to use the most minimally invasive procedure possible. Remember that destroying the cancer is our, and your, number one goal. Sometimes, a more traditional, open procedure is more effective than a minimally invasive one.

Surgical procedures used today include:

  • laser surgery
  • cryosurgery, a process in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill cancer cells
  • laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure which uses small incisions rather than a large one
  • robotic surgery, in which your surgeon controls the surgery using small instruments attached to a robot

Learn more: Talk to your doctor about the different kinds of surgical procedures, so you can understand the pros and cons of each, and understand which one is right for you.


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For information about St. Anthony's Cancer Care Center - St. Louis, please call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.

Working as trusted partners, the physicians and employees of St. Anthony's Health System will deliver care distinguished by its demonstrated quality and personalized service. We will be visibly engaged in improving the health and well­ being of the communities we serve in South County and beyond. We will stand together, proud to set the standard for independent community health systems.