There are hundreds of different types of surgery used to diagnose, stage and treat cancer. Some of the more common types are outlined in this section – some are minor and are more commonly called procedures, while others are much bigger operations.
For more information about surgery to treat specific types of cancer, refer to Cancer Council’s booklet about the type of cancer you have.
For most cancers, abnormal tissue must be removed and examined to make a diagnosis and find out whether the cancer has spread. This process is called staging. Staging can help the doctor recommend the best treatment for you. Some cancers are also given a grade, which describes how abnormal the cancer cells are and how fast they are growing.
The procedure used to diagnose and stage the cancer is called a biopsy, and it may be done under a local or general anaesthetic. The tissue sample is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.
Often a biopsy is done using a thin or hollow needle, which may be guided by an ultrasound, x-ray or CT machine. A surgical biopsy (open biopsy) is done by cutting the body to remove all or part of the tumour. Various surgical tools can be used depending on the part of the body affected.
A biopsy is sometimes done in the doctor’s rooms, but it may also be done in an operating theatre in hospital as day surgery.
Sometimes diagnostic and staging surgery removes all of the cancer, and you don’t need further surgery or treatment. For specific information about staging the type of cancer you have, talk to your medical team or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 and ask for a free information booklet.
The types of biopsy used to diagnose and stage cancer include:
|Procedure||Part of body tested
||Where the tube is inserted
|Bronchoscopy||Lungs or respiratory tract||Mouth or nose|
|Colposcopy||Vagina and cervix||A speculum is inserted into the vagina to view the organs|
|Gastroscopy||Stomach and small intestine||Mouth|
|Laparoscopy||Stomach, liver, female reproductive organs||Small cuts in the abdomen|
|Laryngoscopy||Larynx (voice box)||Mouth|
|Mediastinoscopy||Chest||Small cut in the lower neck|
|Thoracoscopy||Lungs||Small cut in the chest|
The type of surgery used to treat cancer depends on the location and stage of the cancer and your general health. The table below lists some of the more common types of cancer surgery.
|Hysterectomy||Cervical, ovarian, uterine|
|Laryngectomy||Laryngeal (voice box)|
|Pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple’s procedure)||Pancreatic|
Reviewed by:A/Prof Gavin Wright, Director, Surgical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Mr Chip Farmer, Colorectal Surgeon, The Alfred Hospital, Cabrini Hospital and The Avenue Hospital, VIC; Carmen Heathcote, Cancer Support Advisor, 13 11 20, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Anna Hrynko, Consumer; Georgie Palmer, Physiotherapist, Physiofit, TAS; Karen Redman, Breast Care Nurse Practitioner, Breast/Endocrine Surgical Oncology, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Dr Shomik Sengupta, Urologist, Sengupta Urology, VIC; Dr Anica Vasic, Head, Pain Management Unit, St George Hospital, NSW.