Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine

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Surgical Oncology

The area of oncology which emphasizes the surgical removal of malignancies is called surgical oncology.

Surgery is primarily beneficial for treatment of nodular (also called solid) malignancies which are localized to only one site in the body.

The surgical oncologist examines a patient with specific interest as to whether the mass can be completely removed. Complete removal requires removing a portion of normal tissue surrounding a mass. When this is accomplished and confirmed by the pathologist's tissue review, the tumor is said to be removed with "clean margins".

When there is no evidence of spread (metastasis) elsewhere in the body and the size and behavior of the neoplasm (grade) are are also considered less dangerous, it is possible to consider completely removed neoplasms to probably be cured.

However, even in such circumstances, the site of the neoplasm, regional lymph nodes and certain other sites should be carefully examined at specified intervals for recurrence.

The surgical oncologist is also called to consult in a variety of other instances.

  • When the the first surgery does not obtain clean margins and additional surgery may allow complete removal of the tumor.
  • When the use of cryotherapy (freezing) or electrocoagulation (focal heat) is considered useful.
  • When the volume of the tumor is great and radiation therapy or chemotherapy would benefit from surgical reduction of the volume of the neoplasm.
  • When the diagnosis is uncertain and obtaining additional biopsies is necessary.
  • When the presence of residual neoplasia is uncertain and biopsy is considered beneficial.
  • When a tissue is considered to have a potential of becoming malignant and removal would prevent its doing so.
  • When removal of a tissue has or will result in significant loss of function or scarring, the surgical oncologist is specially trained to consider alternative procedures.

Thus surgical oncology is one portion of the team approach to management of neoplasia in conjunction with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, regional or whole body hyperthermia, and molecular therapy.

Key Benefits of Surgical Treatment of Tumors:

  • Can cure localized tumors
  • Obtains tissue for pathologist to determine tumor type and potential need for additional therapy
  • Reduces tumor volume thereby increasing effectiveness of radiation therapy and chemotherapy
Auburn University | College of Veterinary Medicine | Auburn, Alabama 36849 | (334) 844-4546
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