Surgery can sometimes be the most direct way to treat cancer. Depending on cancer type, progression (if the cancer has spread), tumor size, and other factors, surgery can be all that is needed for some patients. Others will benefit from a combination of therapies, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and more.

When you need surgery for cancer, you need the expertise of an academic medical center with trusted experience in specialized surgical techniques. Studies have shown that patients who have surgery at high-volume centers such as Columbia have better outcomes than at smaller centers who perform less surgeries per year. At Columbia Cancer, we offer the latest technologies and approaches in surgical cancer care in a compassionate, supportive environment.

Our Approach and Expertise

Our goal is to remove as much of your cancer as we can, giving you the best chance for cure and limiting the impact of surgery on your life. Our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive and robotic surgeries, which can reduce recovery time and lead to fewer complications.

We work with each patient, their loved ones, and their entire care team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses, and more to determine the best treatment options unique to them. Our surgeons are committed to helping you understand all of your options and making the choice for your care that is right for you.

Other Reasons for Surgery


A biopsy is the main way to diagnose most cancers. With a biopsy, surgeons make a cut (or incision) into the skin and remove all or some of the tissue that may be cancer. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to identify cancerous cells.


Surgery can also be a part of cancer staging, which is the process of finding out the size and spread of cancer. Knowing your cancer’s stage helps your care team find the best treatment option for you. The surgeon may remove some or all of your tumor as a part of staging, as well as nearby lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread.


Some people may decide to have a surgery to reduce their risk for a cancer. For example, a surgeon may recommend removing precancerous polyps found in the colon to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Some women with certain genetic mutations or a strong history of breast or ovarian cancer may decide to remove their breasts and/or ovaries.


After some treatments to remove a cancer, some people choose to have another surgery to restore cosmetic appearance or physical function. This is called plastic or reconstructive surgery, and can sometimes also be done during the main treatment surgery. For example, some people choose to have reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts), or to restore appearance and function after head and neck surgery.


Surgery can sometimes help reduce side effects caused by a tumor. Surgeries can help reduce pain caused by a tumor pressing on a nerve or spinal cord, for example, or restore bowel function if a tumor is blocking the bowel or intestines.


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