Surgical oncology is a specialized form of surgery that involves treating, managing and preventing various types of cancers. A surgical oncologist not only removes tumors, cancerous cells and growths, but also takes the measures to avoid the potential spread and further risk of more cancer.
Surgical oncologists traditionally concentrate on the surgical removal of tumors, lymph nodes and cancerous cells. Surgical oncologists receive special training to gain familiarity with the biology and history of cancers. They work closely with other specialists in the fields of radiation, chemotherapy and pathology to properly treat and manage a patient's overall health.
Oncological surgery is used to remove cancerous growths and sometimes to biopsy suspected malignancies. According to the journal Cancer Medicine, surgical oncologists also may incorporate adjuvant chemotherapy and immunotherapy in their treatment of patients. Adjuvant chemotherapy is the use of drugs as additional treatment for patients with cancers that have spread beyond the original site of the disease. Immunotherapy attempts to use the body's own immune system to fight against cancer.
Following a surgical procedure, a surgical oncologist will examine treatment options depending on the results and the severity of the surgery performed. Some surgical procedures may partially or severely alter a patient's eating, drinking, moving, breathing and bathroom habits. Thus, the surgical oncologist may discuss with the patient the many lifestyle changes he may encounter, and guide him to appropriate resources for assistance.
Each surgery depends on the type of cancer, the distance it has spread and the overall condition of the patient. When cancer has spread far beyond its original site, its removal by surgery is less likely. According to the Encyclopedia of Surgery, surgery may be used just to relieve pain, control bleeding or remove infections.?A surgical oncologist excises tumors with the hope of preventing the further spread of disease. Tumors may need to be removed from organs such as the lungs, tongue, throat, colon, bladder or prostate, among others. They also may need to be removed from ligaments, limbs and tendons.
The mortality rate involved with surgical oncology can be high if tumors are close to major organs or if major parts of the body need to be removed. Certain cancers and treatments are so debilitating to the body that patients may be in a weakened state prior to surgery, which also raises the risk of death. Surgical oncologists view each patient carefully to fully understand the risks of each procedure, the Encyclopedia of Surgery states. The benchmark for success of survival following the removal of tumors and cancerous cells is five years disease-free. The Encyclopedia of Surgery says that after five years, patients are generally considered cured.