Surgical Treatment for Cancer
The Regional Cancer Center has experienced skilled surgeons who perform
a wide variety of surgeries. Typically, surgery for cancer is performed
by a surgical specialist – for example, urologists perform prostate
cancer surgery, colorectal surgeons perform colon cancer surgery, etc.
Our surgeons work collaboratively with each patient's primary care
physician and with other cancer specialties, such as medical and radiation
oncology, as needed.
We offer three convenient locations for surgery; check with your doctor
to see which location is right for you.
Mary Washington Hospital is our region's tertiary care medical center; we offer services that
are typically only found in larger cities. Our 14 surgical suites are
outfitted with the latest technology available and our surgical nurses
and other OR staff have undergone extensive training.
Stafford Hospital is our community-based hospital offering personalized service in a quiet
setting. Stafford has been open less than five years so our surgical suites
and technology offer the latest approach to surgery.
Fredericksburg Ambulatory Surgery Center offers outpatient surgery on the Mary Washington Hospital Medical Campus.
Our surgical suites have been designed for advanced procedures in a setting
that is convenient. We are also ranked in the top 5% nationwide for our
customer service. Many surgeons who practice at Mary Washington Hospital
also perform surgery here.
In addition, we participate in clinical trials for several surgical procedures
to treat lung cancer. For prostate surgery, we offer the most advanced
robot-guided laparoscopic surgery using the Da Vinci Robotic surgery system.
For more information, check out
Mary Washington Hospital's Robotic Surgery Program.
How is surgery used in cancer treatment?
In general, surgery is used in several ways to help cancer patients. According
to the American Cancer Society (ACS), it is the oldest form of cancer
treatment. It provides the best chance to stop many types of cancer, and
it also plays a part in diagnosing, staging, and supporting cancer treatment.
Having surgery for cancer is different for every patient, depending on
the type of surgery, the type of cancer, and the patient's health.
For some people, surgery is a major medical procedure with life-changing
side effects. For others, surgery is quick and has few side effects. We
have more detailed information on
lung cancer, and
prostate cancer. We'll be adding new sections soon.
What are the different types of surgery used in cancer treatment?
Several types of surgery are helpful to people with cancer. Some surgeries
are used in combination with other types of treatment. The following is
a list of these surgeries with a brief explanation of their goals:
Curative surgery removes the cancerous tumor or growth from the body.
Surgeons use curative surgery when the cancerous tumor is localized to
a specific area of the body. This type of treatment is often considered
the primary treatment. However, other types of cancer treatments, such
as radiation, may be used before or after the surgery.
Preventive surgery is used to remove tissue that does not contain cancerous
cells, but may develop into a malignant tumor. For example, polyps in
the colon may be considered precancerous tissue and preventative surgery
may be performed to remove them.
Diagnostic surgery helps to determine whether cells are cancerous. Diagnostic
surgery is used to remove a tissue sample, called a biopsy, for testing
and evaluation (in a laboratory by a pathologist). The tissue samples
help to confirm a diagnosis, identify the type of cancer, and determine
the stage of the cancer.
Staging surgery works to uncover the extent of cancer, or the extent of
the disease in the body. Laparoscopy (a viewing tube with a lens or camera
is inserted through a small incision to examine the inside of the body
and to remove tissue samples) is an example of a surgical staging procedure.
Debulking surgery removes a portion, though not all, of a cancerous tumor.
It is used in certain situations when removing an entire tumor may cause
damage to an organ or the body. Other types of cancer treatment, such
as chemotherapy and radiation, may be used after debulking surgery is
Palliative surgery is used to treat cancer at advanced stages. It does
not work to cure cancer, but to relieve discomfort or to correct other
problems cancer or cancer treatment may have created.
Supportive surgery is similar to palliative surgery because it does not
work to cure cancer. Instead, it helps other cancer treatments work effectively.
An example of supportive surgery is the insertion of a catheter to help
Restorative surgery is sometimes used as a follow-up to curative or other
surgeries to change or restore a person's appearance or the function
of a body part. For example, women with breast cancer sometimes need breast
reconstruction surgery to restore the physical shape of the affected breast(s).
Curative surgery for oral cancer can cause a change in the shape and appearance
of a person's mouth. Restorative surgery may be performed to address
What are the different types of anesthesia that are used?
During surgery, you will be given some form of anesthesia - a medication
administered for the relief of pain and sensation during surgery. The
type and dosage of anesthesia is administered by the anesthesiologist.
When a patient faces surgery, you will meet with the anesthesiologist
before the procedure.
There are various forms of anesthesia. The type you will receive will depend
on the type of surgery and your medical condition. Usually, an anesthesiologist
will administer a sedative in addition to the anesthetic. The different
types of anesthesia are as follows:
Local anesthesia - local anesthesia is medication targeted to a particular
area of the body. Patients remains conscious during the surgery.
Regional anesthesia - regional anesthesia means numbing only the portion of the body which
will be operated on. Usually an injection of local anesthetic is given
in the area of nerves that provide feeling to that part of the body. There
are several forms of regional anesthetics, two of which are described below:
Spinal anesthetic - often used for lower abdominal, pelvic, rectal, or lower extremity surgery.
This type of anesthetic involves injecting a single dose of the anesthetic
agent directly into the spinal cord in the lower back, causing numbness
in the lower body.
Epidural anesthetic - this anesthetic is similar to a spinal anesthetic and also is commonly
used for surgery of the lower limbs and during labor and childbirth. This
type of anesthesia involves continually infusing drugs through a thin
catheter that has been placed into the space that surrounds the spinal
canal in the lower back, causing numbness in the lower body.
General anesthesia - general anesthesia causes a patient to be unconscious during surgery.
The medicine is either inhaled through a breathing mask or tube, or administered
through an intravenous line - a thin plastic tube inserted into a vein
(usually in the patient's forearm). A breathing tube may be inserted
into the windpipe to maintain proper breathing during surgery. Once the
surgery is complete, the anesthesiologist tops the anesthetic and the
patient wakes up in the recovery room.