Cancer Surgery Overview

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Leavey Cancer Center

Cancer Surgery Overview

Our surgical team is dedicated to providing our patients with a complete range of options best suited to their individual needs. Our cancer specialists are extraordinarily precise in removing the cancer while preserving as much normal tissue and function as possible.

Minimally-invasive surgery is a surgical approach to cancer treatment designed to minimize trauma, maximize outcomes and enable patients to quickly return to their normal everyday activities. Recent studies have shown that, for many cancers, patients have fewer complications if they have surgery at a hospital that performs high volumes of these operations and if the surgery is performed by a surgeon with expertise in the procedure.


da Vinci Robotic surgery is now at Northridge Hospital, the first facility in the San Fernando Valley and one of only 20 percent of hospitals in the U.S. to offer the da Vinci robotic surgical system.

Here are seven basic types of cancer surgery:

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 is also known as a 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, such as:

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): a needle is inserted into the suspected site and tissue cells are removed for inspection under a microscope.

Incisional or Excisional Biopsy: the patient is given 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.

Staging surgery is used to determine the extent of a cancer. This procedure can sometimes be done without an incision by using tiny cameras (scopes) attached to a flexible tube. Besides allowing surgeons to view the suspicious area, these devices are able to take a tissue sample.

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.

Supportive surgery is used to help with other cancer treatments. For example, some chemotherapy devices require a port (connecting device) to be inserted under the skin.

Restorative surgery returns the body to normal or near normal appearance or function following cancer treatment.

Palliative surgery is only used to ease pain, disability or other complications that come with advanced cancer. Palliative surgery may improve quality of life, but is not a cure or anticancer treatment.

Surgical options for specific types of cancer are discussed on that cancer specific page. Our cancer specific pages include: brain and spine cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, gynecology cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma and leukemia, liver and pancreatic, and skin cancer. 

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Northridge Hospital Medical Center
18300 Roscoe Blvd
Northridge, CA 91328
(818) 885-8500