Surgery is the oldest form of cancer treatment. About 60% of cancer patients will undergo surgery, either by itself or in combination with other therapies.
There are seven types of cancer surgery:
Curative surgery simply involves removal of a cancerous tumor. It works best on localized cancers that haven't yet spread to other parts of the body, and is often followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy to make sure all cancerous cells have been removed.
Preventive surgery is used to keep cancer from occurring. Many colon cancers can be prevented by removing precancerous polyps before they become malignant. A woman at very high risk for breast cancer may decide to have her breasts removed rather than worry about getting breast cancer later in life.
Diagnostic surgery (biopsy): In this procedure, the surgeon removes some or all of a tumor for examination to determine if the growth is cancerous. A biopsy can be done in several ways:
Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): a needle is inserted into the tumor and material is drawn out for inspection under a microscope.
Incisional or excisional biopsy: the patient is put under local or regional anesthesia, which numbs the area, and a small incision is made in the skin. The surgeon either removes a piece of a large tumor (incisional), or the entire mass (excisional), for further examination. If the tumor is in the chest or abdomen, general anesthesia is used.