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Surgery for Childhood Cancer

Surgery plays an important role in the diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care of many types of childhood cancers. Doctors who specialize in cancer surgery are called surgical oncologists.

There are several ways surgery is used in cancer care including:

  • Resection (removal of the tumor)
  • Diagnosis
  • Supportive care
  • Staging of the disease
  • Treatment of disease-related conditions or complications.
Two pediatric cancer surgeons during surgery

Surgery is important in the diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care of many childhood cancers.

Depending on the surgery, the procedure may be performed as an outpatient or inpatient. The recovery time and care needed afterward will be different in each case. There are risks involved with any medical procedure. The care team will explain what to expect. It is important to follow instructions on what to do before and after surgery.


Anesthesia uses medicines to keep patients from feeling pain during surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, doctors may use local anesthesia or general anesthesia. Local or regional anesthesia works by causing a temporary numbness or loss of feeling in a specific area of the body. General anesthesia causes a deep sleep so that there is no feeling or awareness during surgery. Sleep under anesthesia is only temporary for as long as is needed for the surgery. An anesthesiologist is a doctor who is trained to give these medicines and monitor patients during surgery.

Reviewed: June 2018

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