When faced with a cancer diagnosis, patients seek out the specialized training and experience of a surgical oncologist to allow for the very best possible outcomes. Surgical oncology is a specialized area of oncology where the surgeon plays an integral role in managing and curing cancer. They perform lifesaving and technically demanding surgeries. The surgical oncologists at SurgOne are trained in advanced surgical procedures to remove tumors and lesions. They specialize in regional lymph node removal and are experts in handling cancer recurrence. They are also well-versed in reconstructive surgeries.
Cancer is typically treated by multiple modalities and surgery is an important part of the treatment plan. Surgical Oncology is a unique medical specialty because as advances have been made in biology, pathophysiology, diagnostics, and staging of malignant tumors have taken place – the surgeon functions within a multi-disciplinary team of cancer specialists. They are partners with both the medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. All the surgical oncologists at SurgOne participate in multi- disciplinary clinics where a team comes together to formulate a comprehensive plan for additional treatment that may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or ablative therapy.
Common Conditions Treated by Surgical Oncologists
- Liver Cancer – Liver cancer is commonly treated with a Hepatectomy. This is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the liver. If a portion is removed the liver is often able to regenerate and grow back to its original size.
- Pancreatic Cancer – The most successful treatment for pancreatic cancer is the surgical removal of the tumor or a Pancreatectomy, which is the surgical removal of the pancreas all together. Our team is also skilled in the Whipple procedure, which removes the head or the entire pancreas, much of the small intestine, a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder and associated lymph nodes. In some cases, the surgeon may even remove a portion of the stomach. This is a major surgery and requires completing a complex reconstruction. Patients usually stay in the hospital for one to two weeks following the Whipple procedure.
- Bile Duct Cancer/Cholangiocarcinoma – Surgery is the preferred treatment for bile duct cancer. A high level of skill and expertise is needed for surgeons to remove cancerous tumors in the bile ducts, as they are located between the liver and intestines. Sometimes a liver resection or a Whipple procedure may also be necessary to offer the best chance for a cure.
- Adenocarcinomas – This is a specific type of cancer that can develop in the glands of certain organs such as the breast, stomach, prostate, lung, pancreatic and colon and rectum. The SurgOne team specializes in the minimally invasive removal of the affected glandular tissue in these areas.
- Neuroendocrine Tumors – Neuroendocrine tumors are rare but can occur in many different areas of the body – commonly the liver, pancreas, intestines, or stomach. Most tumors are successfully treated with surgery to remove the tumor and some surrounding tissue.
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) – With this condition, abnormal cells form in the intestinal lining or muscle area. Surgery is not always necessary but when it is recommended the surgical oncologist is skilled at removing the infected tissues.
- Gastric or Stomach Cancer – Stomach cancer can be treated with either a partial or total removal of the stomach. The surgeon will often remove the lymph nodes in addition to completing a gastrectomy to be sure they have removed all the cancer. After the removal of the cancer, a surgical oncologist is skilled at reconstructing the digestive system.
- Skin Cancer – Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer. Our surgeons remove many types of skin cancers and lesions – basal call and squamous cell cancers and melanoma, are all best treated by removing the cancer and some of the surrounding healthy tissue. They also often biopsy a sentinel lymph node to see if the cancer has spread locally. Our team can provide reconstructive surgery and may also partner with a plastic surgeon for reconstruction based on the location of the tumor.
Recovering from Surgical Oncology
Many of the cancer surgeries that are done today can be performed robotically allowing for smaller incisions, less blood loss, and a faster recovery. Sometimes the patients may even go home the same day. However, some of these surgeries can also be quite extensive and require a short hospital stay. Liver and pancreatic surgeries are complicated and can take anywhere from 2 – 8 hours to complete. Although they are also completed robotically, these are major surgeries that require a few nights in the hospital to recover.
For all cancer patients, family support is an important part of their recovery. For individuals who do not have an accessible support network, our team does an excellent job at determining the type of needs they may need after surgery. Each patient is screened in the hospital by physical therapists and occupational therapists to determine their needs at home.