Surgery at RPCI

Surgery is the most common treatment for many types of cancer. Your doctors will discuss your options with you and review the benefits and risks of any surgical procedure. The information on these surgery pages is general information on:

  • What to expect if you are having surgery at Roswell Park
  • How to prepare for surgery
  • What you can do to recover as quickly as possible

Surgical Facilities

3 West

For most surgical procedures at Roswell Park, you will go to 3 West, located on the third floor of the hospital. Depending upon the procedure and your condition, you may go home the same day or you may be admitted to an inpatient unit for a hospital stay.

2 West/Day Hospital

Certain surgical procedures can be done in a short time, require only a short recovery period, and involve very little risk. If you will be having a local anesthetic and/ or conscious sedation, your procedure may be scheduled for 2 West/Day Hospital. (A local anesthetic only numbs one area, like Novocain® at the dentist. During conscious sedation, medications are given that prevent/relieve anxiety and pain without using general anesthesia, which causes a complete loss of consciousness.)  If you go home the same day as your procedure, you must have a responsible adult to drive you home, regardless of whether your surgery takes place on 3 West or 2 West.

Reasons for Having Surgery

  • To diagnose and/or stage: a surgical biopsy takes one or more small tissue sample from a tumor or other abnormality for examination under a microscope. If cancer is present (a positive biopsy), other testing may be done to determine how advanced the cancer is (staging). If someone is having serious signs and symptoms of a problem but diagnostic testing has not been able to identify the source of the problem, exploratory surgery may be done.
  • To remove a tumor: The tumor and some of the surrounding tissue is removed; some lymph nodes in the area may be removed as well to examine them for cancer cells.
  • To prevent cancer from occurring: Women at very high risk of breast cancer or people with premalignant colon polyps may have preventative surgery.
  • To insert a device: Minor surgery may be needed to put in a feeding tube for nutrition or another device that will assist with your treatment, such as a chestport (mediport) for chemotherapy.
  • To rebuild or restore: Reconstructive surgery may be done after a mastectomy or a surgical procedure may reverse a prior procedure such as reconnecting the colon after someone has had a temporary colostomy.
  • To relieve pain or other symptom: Some surgical procedures are offered to make you more comfortable or improve your quality of life, but they are not a treatment for cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, some people worry that having a biopsy or surgery for cancer will spread the disease. This seldom happens. Surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading. For example, if they must remove tissue from more than one area, they use different tools for each one. This approach helps reduce the chance that cancer cells will spread to healthy tissue.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Advances in technique and equipment now enable surgeons to perform many procedures using minimally invasive surgery (MIS) techniques. MIS can, in many cases, accomplish the same goals as traditional surgery but use only a few small incisions and specialized instruments, cameras, and computers. The traditional “open” approach requires much larger incisions and causes more trauma to the surrounding tissues. Endoscopic (laparoscopy, colonoscopy) and robot-assisted procedures are two types of minimally invasive surgery. Learn more about minimally invasive surgery at Roswell.

In general, minimally invasive surgery:

  • reduces blood loss during surgery (lessening the chances you’ll need a transfusion)
  • lowers the risks of infections and complications
  • lessens postoperative pain
  • helps you recover more quickly