St. Thomas Hospital for Oncology provides cancer care with a multi disciplinary specialty treatment.
Oncology is the treatment of cancer using chemotherapeutic drugs.
Chemotherapy drugs normally cause side effects as they do not discriminate between cancer cells and normal cells.
Here treatment for cancer is provided using Medicine: a) Injection and b) Tablets.
The oncologist coordinates the multidisciplinary care of cancer patients.
What is Surgical Oncology?
Surgical Oncology is a discipline of medicine committed to treating cancer tumours through the means of surgery.
Traditionally, surgery has been the first line of treatment for cancer. It’s only in the last century that other treatment avenues like chemotherapy and radiotherapy came into being. Surgical oncology deals with the use of surgical techniques to treat all forms of cancer.
Cancer surgery may not necessarily be the only treatment available for cancer but is generally considered for most forms of cancer. An oncologist would have to consider surgery along with other treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Surgical oncology involves the following functions:
Diagnosis of cancer and determining its stage by taking a biopsy or other methods.
Surgically removing the tumor or a part of it.
Surgically remove the tumor along with other affected body parts.
Reconstruct parts that are affected due to the surgical treatment.
A surgical oncologist plays a vital role in providing multidisciplinary cancer care. They are trained to manage both simple and complex cases of primary and secondary cancer. Surgical oncologists have immense knowledge of cancer biology, imaging technologies, radiation therapy and chemical and biological therapy. .
Our Surgical oncologists work along with an experienced and dedicated team of nurses, anesthesiologists,and other technologists to offer the best, safest and most effective cancer care treatment..
Experienced team of surgical oncologists ensure surgical removal of the tumour at the site of occurrence. The patients are explained on the process involved in surgery and the recuperation time. Nutritionists and rehab specialists support the patient during the process of recovery. Reconstructive surgeons work on the restoration of the appearance of the body based on the condition of the patient.
The department comprises of numerous speciality sections:
Sarcoma surgery Sarcoma is an uncommon cancer type that is mostly found in the bones, muscles, cartilage, nerves, tendons and blood vessels of your arms and legs. They grow in connective tissue cells that support other tissues in the human body. Sarcoma surgery is performed to remove the tumour out of the body .
Melanoma surgery Melanoma affects the melanocytes cells in your skin and is one of the most serious types of cancers. Exposure to UV radiation is considered to be one of the leading causes of melanoma. If melanoma spreads beyond the skin, surgery is suggested to remove the affected lymph nodes.
Hepato-pancreato- biliary (HPB) surgery
Hepato-pancreato- biliary cancers are the cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, gallbladder and the bile ducts. A surgery procedure is performed to remove the malignant cells from the body. The treatment is combined with other cancer treatment options like internal radiation therapy or regional chemotherapy.
HIPEC is an alternative method for providing chemotherapy. In this particular method, chemotherapy is offered directly into the abdomen. For gastric cancers, this is one of the most effective and recommended treatment options.
Apart from radiation therapy, endocrine cancer treatment also includes surgery to remove the cancerous tumour. Those diagnosed with endocrine cancers are also offered hormonal therapy to balance hormone levels.
Colorectal surgery Colorectal surgery is a discipline of medicine that manages conditions of the rectum, anus and colon. Surgery is performed to remove cancer and tissues from the wall of the rectum.
Acute care general and palliative surgical oncology
These sections provide diagnosis, suitable treatment and surgical services to cancer patients to improve survival, shorten recovery times and minimize treatment-related side effects.
The treatment option can be surgery alone or surgery along with other treatment options. Surgery is performed to remove the formed tumour. In some cases, surgery isn’t helpful like in leukaemia (blood cancer), there is no mass to be removed.
Surgery in cancer treatment is mostly used
- To perform a diagnostic procedure to ascertain the stage of cancer
- Remove the tumour or cancer
- Remove a part of the tumour
- Palliative surgery is performed to ease the symptoms of cancer
- Reconstructive or restorative surgery to change the condition of the body post-surgery.
Surgical Oncology – types of surgeries
In surgical oncology, there are different procedures carried out that depend on the objective of treatment. The types of surgeries carried out depending on the treatment goals are:
Tumors and masses can be formed in the body. In most cases, these may be benign or harmless. Doctors would like to avoid risks and may want to test the masses before deciding. As a result, a sample of the mass needs to be collected and sent for testing to determine if it is cancerous or not. This procedure is referred to as diagnostic surgery. It may involve cutting out a small area of the tissue (incisional biopsy) or removing an entire mass (excisional biopsy). A biopsy may be done without an incision by inserting a fine needle to withdraw the tissue.
This is also known as prophylactic surgery and the goal is to prevent cancer. It’s possible that polyps or precancerous tissues are detected during diagnosis. While these are not cancerous tumors, a surgical oncologist may decide to remove these tissues as a preventive measure. Related treatments include mastectomy where the breast is removed in high-risk cases to prevent breast cancer. Similarly, in those who are at risk of developing ovarian cancer, the ovary and fallopian tubes may be surgically removed as a preventive measure.
This is a surgical procedure done by a surgical oncologist to determine the stage of cancer. Treatment for cancer depends on how much cancer cells have spread. A staging surgery may be done to open up the affected parts and find out the extent of cancer. This may be done using laparoscopy where small incisions are done and a laparoscope inserted to investigate the cancer. This is generally not a very invasive form of surgery.
This is the actual treatment done by a surgical oncologist. Once the presence of cancer is confirmed and the stage decided, a surgery is done to remove cancer cells and other affected body tissues. Surgery involves removing cancer cells and lymph nodes that are affected. Sometimes a part of an organ or the entire organ may have to be removed as a part of treatment. Surgery can be used along with chemotherapy, where a port and catheter is surgically inserted to allow medicines to be delivered to the blood.
When surgery is carried out, a part of an organ may be removed. It would be required to reconstruct the body to restore body parts, this is known as reconstructive surgery. For instance, when surgery for head and neck cancer is done, facial reconstruction is needed to reconstruct the face, which otherwise is affected because of removal of tissues. Microvascular surgery is generally used to stitch together small blood vessels to reconstruct body parts.
When cancer is at an advanced stage, curing it may not be possible. However, quality of life needs to be improved through various means. Palliative surgery provides relief from the symptoms of cancer. If a tumor is pressing on a nerve and causing pain, then the tumor is removed to provide relief from symptoms, even though the surgery may not treat the cancer.
Surgical oncology techniques There are different surgical techniques that are used in the treatment of cancer. All these surgical oncology techniques are classified under the following heads:
Open or invasive surgeries: where a large incision is made to carry out the surgery.
Minimally invasive surgeries: where small incisions are made. Examples are robotic surgery and laparoscopic surgery.
Ablative surgeries: where ablative methods are used to destroy the cancer cells in conjunction with surgery.
The various techniques used include:
Open surgery: This is a technique, where a large incision has to be made on the affected body part so that the surgeon can reach the cancerous cells and remove it.
Laparoscopy surgery: In this technique, the surgeon uses small incisions and inserts a laparoscope, a device that has a camera. This allows the surgery to be done precisely without resorting to an open surgery. It ensures quicker healing for the patient. It is sometimes referred to as endoscopic surgery or keyhole surgery. It can be used for diagnosis,staging and treatment
Surgical oncologists ensure that the patient is prepared for surgery and understand the recovery procedure. The oncologist would spend time before and after the surgery to ensure the process is done in a way to ensure patient comfort. Some of the key aspects here are:
The surgical oncologist counsels the patient to make him/her understand about the procedure that is carried out, benefits, and risks.
The decision on the required amount of anesthesia is made and this is informed to the patient.
The patient is advised on things to be done before the surgery. Certain medications like blood thinner may need to be stopped before surgery. Also, arrangements for blood may need to be made.
Once the surgery is complete, the patient is discharged only after the surgical oncologist determines the patient is ready to go home. Instructions for care at home are given and follow-up visits done to monitor recovery.
Surgical Oncology FAQs
What is the difference between surgical oncology and general surgery?
General surgery does not handle specialized cases involving cancer. A surgical oncologist is trained on surgical procedures and techniques to treat cancer.
Dr. Irene Priestley, MS(ophthal),
A4, Ramanalaya Apts, 21, 1st Crescent Park street,
Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai.
TO: The Medical Director,
St. Thomas Hospital,
St. Thomas Mount, Chennai.
I want to give my feedback about my mother’s treatment in your hospital. My mother, Mrs Pauline Vores was diagnosed of Ca left breast with metastasis, T4b N3c M1, in February 2012. She had mediastinal, lung and bone secondaries. She was treated with palliative chemotherapy with docetaxel and cyclophosphamide. She was under the care of Dr. Kannan. After 9 courses of IV chemo, she was put on oral chemo and hormone therapy. PET CT taken periodically, showed a very good response to chemo. The latest PET CT was taken in April 2014. It showed complete metabolic resolution with significant reduction in size of primary breast malignancy. There was also similar resolution of nodal and skeletal metastasis, and there were no new lesions. Currently my mother is on hormone therapy only. By God’s grace, her overall health is good.
I want to take this opportunity, to express my sincere, heartfelt thanks to Dr. Kannan and the staff of St.
Dr. Irene Priestley