What is Surgical Oncology and What Does a Surgical Oncologist Do?

Surgical oncology is a field of medicine that uses surgery to treat cancer. It is an area of expertise that focuses on the surgical treatment of various types of cancer. An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer and providing medical care to those diagnosed with it. The oncologist may also be referred to as a cancer specialist.

Surgical oncologists are general surgeons with specialized training in procedures to diagnose, stage, or remove cancerous growths. In open surgery, the surgical oncologist will make a large incision, usually to remove all or part of the tumor and some of the surrounding healthy tissue (margins). After the surgery, follow-up visits with the surgical oncologist may be necessary to review biopsy results and check the healing of the incision. Surgical oncologists are doctors or osteopaths who have been trained in surgery with a focus on diagnosing and treating cancer.

They must have extensive knowledge about the disease, natural history, chemotherapy, radiation, and other aspects to become a higher-level surgical oncology center. The most common procedures performed by surgical oncologists are biopsies and surgery to remove cancerous growth. CTCA's Advanced Surgical Recovery Program (ASURE) is designed to help patients recover from surgery more quickly and with fewer complications. A surgical oncologist is defined as a surgeon who has acquired special skills and experience and is committed to treating patients who have neoplasms.

They must have the knowledge and judgment to safely apply surgical treatment options ranging from conservative to radical in individual patients based on the biology of their disease. Many surgical oncologists are involved in significant laboratory research that covers a variety of scientific topics and bring new knowledge to understand the biology and treatment of cancer presentations that occur in surgical patients. They must also have a firm understanding of the basic principles of cancer biology and be prepared to implement advances in genetics, immunology, and molecular biology in new diagnostic and treatment strategies. The goal is for the surgical oncologist to play a vital leadership role within the surgery department.