Cancer Surgery

The Latest in Surgical Care for Cancer

As part of your cancer treatment, your cancer care team may recommend surgery. Your Sanford Health oncologist works with leading oncologic surgeons to get you the care you need.

Cancer surgery is meant to remove all or as much of your cancer as possible. You might have cancer surgery for several reasons:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Diagnosing cancer
  • Determining your cancer’s stage
  • Treating cancer
  • Relieving symptoms or side effects

Oncologic surgery puts more tools in your cancer-fighting toolbox. At Sanford Health, you have access to minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery – advances that help you recover faster and with less pain. We offer precision-based techniques and technology that targets the cancerous area and leaves your healthy tissue alone. You also have access to clinical trials not available with other health care providers.

American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC) has accredited the Sanford Cancer Centers. The accreditation demonstrates Sanford Health’s commitment to high-quality, expert cancer care.

Learn more about our cancer surgeons’ specialties below.

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Surgery Options

Breast Cancer Surgery

No matter which option you choose, our surgeons deliver the best care and are committed to providing the latest breast surgical treatment options, including lumpectomy, mastectomy and hidden scar surgery. Sanford offers surgery options after treatment as well. Learn about one woman's breast reconstruction surgery.

What breast cancer surgery option is right for you?

Colon Cancer Surgery

Sanford Health offers surgeons specialized in the treatment of colon cancer. Sanford Surgery’s colon and rectal specialists diagnose and treat disorders and disease of the colorectal system. Also known as proctologists, we provide a variety of treatments and procedures to help you reduce painful conditions and get back to everyday life.

Gynecological Cancer Surgery

Our gynecological surgeons are experts in surgical treatments for uterine, ovarian, cervical, peritoneal, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Often these surgeries can be performed through minimally invasive procedures, also called laparoscopic surgery.

This means our surgeons perform procedures through just a few small incisions. This leads to less pain, minimal scarring and quicker recoveries for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can get cancer surgery?

Cancer surgery is one of your options to fight the disease. It works best for solid, localized tumors. Surgery does not help leukemia patients or patients with cancers that have spread. Your oncologist can tell you if you’re a candidate for surgery. 

Can I combine surgery with other treatment options?

Sometimes all you’ll need is surgery. However, most patients combine it with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

How much will it cost?

Most insurance plans help pay for cancer treatment surgery. You should talk to your insurance company directly to learn more.

The cost of your surgery depends on:

  • If you need to stay overnight or for multiple days in the hospital
  • The number of specialists your operation requires
  • The type of anesthesia you need (local, regional or general)
  • The type of surgery
  • Where you get the surgery
  • Where you live

How does Sanford perform surgery?

Whenever possible, you’ll undergo minimally invasive surgery. Our surgeons make as few cuts as possible to limit your pain and recovery time. Rather than making one large cut, Sanford surgeons often make a few smaller ones. In these cuts, they insert specialized tools to remove the tumor.

Surgeons will also remove some of the healthy tissue around the tumor to help ensure they’ve removed all the cancer. They may remove tissue near the tumor and check it under a microscope. This is to see if the cancer has spread. 

What are the risks of cancer surgery?

After surgery, you will feel pain where the surgeon operated. Your oncologist and nurses will help you manage your pain. If you think your pain is not well managed, talk to your doctor right away about your options.

You will need to take steps to prevent infection after surgery. Your treatment team will give you detailed instructions on how to care for the area where you had your operation. They will also tell you how to spot an infection. If you do develop an infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to clear it up right away.

Talk to your oncologist about other possible risks, including bleeding and tissue damage. 

What are common side effects of surgery?

After surgery, you may develop:

  • Fatigue
  • Infection
  • Lymphedema (fluid buildup under the skin)
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Talk to your doctor before surgery about possible side effects. You may need to seek further treatment for some side effects. 

What do I need to do before surgery?

Your cancer care team will tell you about prior tests. You may need to get blood tests and X-rays. Ask before the procedure about any supplies you will need after surgery. You may need bandages or ointment for after-surgery care. 

What can I eat before surgery?

You may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking before surgery. Make sure you follow your care team’s instructions. If you don’t, then your surgery may need to be rescheduled. 

What do I need to do after surgery?

You will get specific instructions from your care team on after-surgery care. This will include:

  • Activities to avoid
  • Follow-up appointments
  • Next steps with treatment
  • Nutrition
  • Pain control
  • Recovery time
  • Signs of infection
  • Wound care

How long will it take to recover?

Several factors affect recovery time after surgery. If you went under general anesthesia, it will take more time than if you had local or regional anesthesia. The more extensive the operation, the longer the recovery time. Another factor is how active you need to be at your job.

Your doctor can tell you how long it will take to recover. Talk to your employer about taking medical leave or if working from home after surgery is possible. Your health insurance may cover your costs during your medical leave. 

What is complex general surgical oncology?

A surgeon certified in complex general surgical oncology has extra training to meet the needs of patients with cancer. These surgeons provide cancer care services from diagnosis to treatment to rehabilitation. They are also active in cancer research to ensure their patients get the most up to date care.

These surgeons specialize in helping patients with complex presentations of cancer, those with rare or unusual cancers and anyone who needs a complex general surgical procedure.

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