Surgical Oncology


Surgical oncology is the field of cancer care that focuses on surgery to diagnose, stage, and treat cancer, and to manage some cancer-related symptoms.  Surgery is meant to remove all or as much of your cancer as possible. You might have cancer surgery for several reasons:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Diagnosing cancer
  • Determining your cancer’s stage
  • Treating cancer
  • Relieving symptoms or side effects

A surgical oncologist specializes in the surgical aspects of cancer, including a biopsy (the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope) and surgically removing the cancer, the surrounding tissue, and sometimes, nearby lymph nodes.

At Oklahoma Cancer Center our surgeons and surgical oncology teams have years of experience in performing surgical procedures for many types of cancer, including advanced and complex tumors. Our patient care also includes the use of palliative surgeries to control pain, increase your comfort level and improve your quality of life.

How is Cancer Surgery Performed?

There are two primary types of cancer surgery: open surgery and minimally invasive surgery.

In open surgery, the surgical oncologist will make a large incision, usually to remove all or part of a tumor and some of the surrounding healthy tissue (margins).

Minimally invasive surgical techniques may involve:

  • Laparoscopy: A surgical oncologist will make a few small incisions and insert a laparoscope—a thin tube with a tiny camera attached to it—into one of the incisions to capture an interior image while inserting surgical tools into the other incisions to excise malignancies and surrounding tissue.
  • Laser surgery: The surgeon will use a narrow beam of high-intensity light to remove a tumor.
  • Cryosurgery: The surgeon will use liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill cancer cells.
  • Robotic surgery: This surgery is similar to a laparoscopic surgery. However, instead of manipulating surgical tools by hand, the surgeon uses a computer console to operate the robotic tools.

Non-surgical treatments may take place before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) or after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to help prevent cancer growth, metastasis, or recurrence. The treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.

Can Surgery be Combined with Other Treatments?

Depending on the diagnosis, surgery can be used as the only treatment for a cancer or can be used in conjunction with other treatments such as chemotherapy or proton therapy. For example, for some brain tumors, a surgeon may go and cut out as much of the tumor as is safe to spare brain function, and then radiation is used post-surgery to treat the tumor bed to ensure any remaining microscopic cancer cells are destroyed. For breast cancer, patients will sometimes have surgery to remove the lesion or remove the whole breast and then follow that up with chemotherapy or hormone therapy to ensure the cancer does not spread to other parts of the body. The specialists at Oklahoma Cancer Center work with patients to design the optimal treatment plan for their cancer and can discuss the pros and cons of surgery.

Conditions Treated

Many types of cancer are treated with surgery. Surgery works best for solid tumors that are contained in one area. It is a local treatment, meaning that it treats only the part of your body with cancer. It is not used for leukemia (a type of blood cancer) or for cancers that have spread.

Sometimes surgery will be the only treatment you need. But most often, you will also have other cancer treatments. To learn more about surgery for cancer or to find out if a particular type of surgery is right for you, please schedule a time to speak with one of Oklahoma Cancer Center’s skilled surgical oncologists.