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There are different types of surgery that can be used to treat cancer.
During the surgery the surgeon will aim to remove the tumour and a margin of healthy tissue from around the tumour.
Your surgeon will also often remove some of the lymph nodes| (lymph glands) that are close to your tumour as this is a common place for cancer cells to spread to. The number of lymph nodes removed varies with the type of cancer.
A doctor who specialises in diagnosing disease by examining tissues under a microscope (a pathologist) will test the lymph nodes for cancer cells. If the nodes contain cancer cells, there may be an increased risk of the cancer coming back in the future. So you may need to have treatment such as radiotherapy|, chemotherapy| or hormonal therapy| after your operation.
In some situations it may be possible to have keyhole surgery (sometimes called laparoscopic surgery) to remove some or all of a tumour from a part of the body.
In this type of surgery, small openings are made instead of one large cut (incision). The surgeon uses a laparoscope to work inside the body and remove the tumour through a small cut in the skin.
The main advantage of keyhole surgery is that it leaves a much smaller wound in the chest or tummy wall, and this means that recovery time is shorter. Sometimes people who are not fit enough to have an open operation may be able to have keyhole surgery.
Keyhole surgery can produce equally good results as conventional surgery. However, it needs to be carried out by surgeons with specialist training and experience in using laparoscopic techniques. So, if it’s suitable for you - and you choose to have this type of surgery - you may need to travel to another hospital to have it.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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