Surgical Oncology | WVU Cancer Institute (2024)

If you are diagnosed with cancer, WVU Cancer Institute surgeons might recommend surgery. Our surgical oncologists are experts in both complex, hard-to-treat cancers and cancers that are more common. We have a broad understanding of the latest cancer treatments, including minimally invasive robotic surgery. Each year, our team performs almost 2,000 surgical procedures.

Our goal is to give you care tailored to your needs and the type and stage of cancer you have. We bring together a team of surgeons who work closely with other cancer specialists, including medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, and complementary medicine practitioners. Together, we design a plan that fights your cancer in the best possible way.

Types of Cancer Surgery We Offer

At the WVU Cancer Institute, we offer minimally invasive and robotic approaches whenever possible. We also offer the latest in reconstructive surgery after cancer.

Brain and Spine Cancer Surgery

As per World Health Organization, there are more than 100 different types of brain and spine tumors. Neurosurgeons remove these tumors or reduce the size of these tumors to aid in decreasing tumor-related symptoms in patients as well as to confirm a diagnosis for future treatments.

Types of brain and spine cancer surgery we offer include:

  • Craniotomy — In this common type of brain surgery, a neurosurgeon makes an opening in your skull to remove all or part of a tumor. This method is performed in various ways, including an awake craniotomy using local anesthesia when a tumor is close to an area of the brain that controls vital functions such as speech or vision.
  • Tumor removal and debulking — A neurosurgeon performs partial or complete removal of the tumor to prevent further neurological damage.
  • Endovascular neurosurgical oncology techniques — These minimally invasive surgical approaches use image-guided techniques to diagnose or remove a tumor.
  • Skull base surgery — This neurosurgical technique is used to remove a tumor or other growth at the base or bottom of the skull.
  • Neuroendoscopy procedures — In these minimally invasive surgical procedures, the tumor is removed through small holes in your skull.
  • Chemotherapy implants — These implants can be inserted by neurosurgeons into the brain tumor or spinal tumor tissue to deliver chemotherapy.
  • Laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) — This laser therapy is used by neurosurgeons to precisely target and ablate the tumor.
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) — This procedure delivers radiation therapy directly to the tumor without causing significant side effects in the surrounding area.
  • Focused ultrasound therapy (FUS) — It is a non-invasive therapeutic strategy to overcome the blood brain barrier and enhance the penetration of treatments in the brain.
  • Spine surgeries — En bloc resection, posterolateral resection, spinal cord decompression, and instrumentation are various spine surgical approaches to remove spine tumors.

Breast Cancer Surgery

Surgery is often a part of breast cancer treatment. Breast surgery may be used to remove cancerous tumors, determine if cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, or lessen symptoms of advanced cancer. Reconstructive surgery helps restore your breast shape after the removal of cancer.

Types of breast cancer surgery we offer include:

  • Breast-conserving surgery — This minimally invasive approach removes only the part of your breast that has cancer. It’s also called a partial mastectomy or a lumpectomy.
  • Oncoplastic breast surgery — This is a new way to perform breast surgery where the tumor is removed and the breast is reshaped at the same time to give a better shape for the breast, or a smaller size breast if that is desired. This is performed by the breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon at the same time
  • Mastectomy — This surgery removes your entire breast to treat or prevent cancer.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy — This minimally invasive procedure allows doctors to determine if cancer has spread to local lymph nodes and helps guide subsequent therapies.
  • Lymph node dissection — This is a surgery used to remove lymph nodes with cancer or those with a high likelihood that cancer has spread to them.
  • Breast reconstruction — After cancer surgery, breast reconstruction restores the shape and size of your affected breast.

Colorectal Cancer Surgery

Surgeons use colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy to remove tissue samples (biopsy) that are studied under a microscope and evaluated for precancerous or cancerous conditions.

Types of surgery we perform for colorectal cancer include:

  • Colectomy — In this surgery, doctors remove the part of your colon with the cancer and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Low anterior resection — In this surgery, doctors remove part of the rectum and nearby lymph nodes for rectal cancer. This operation is done to avoid having a permanent colostomy.
  • Diverting colostomy — If cancer of the colon or rectum causes a bowel blockage, this surgery relieves the blockage.
  • Polypectomy and local excision — In this procedure, polyps are removed during a colonoscopy using a thin wire loop.
  • Transanal endoscopy microsurgery (TEMS) — This minimally invasive approach is used to remove tumors in your rectum with tiny instruments.

Endocrine Cancer Surgery

Minimally invasive surgical approaches help treat cancers that affect the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. Patients with these cancers often have a variety of physicians who help care for them, including endocrinologists who help manage the medical aspects of these diseases.

Types of endocrine cancer surgery we offer include:

  • Adrenalectomy — This operation is typically performed in a minimally invasive fashion and includes removing the nodule and entire adrenal gland on one side of the body. Surrounding lymph nodes are often removed in conjunction.
  • Central neck dissection — Surgeons perform this procedure if thyroid cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes within the neck.
  • Pancreatectomy — Endocrine malignancies of the pancreas sometimes require removal of the nodule within or an entire portion of the pancreas.
  • Hemi-thyroidectomy — Doctors use this surgery to remove part of your thyroid gland or lobes that contain cancer cells.
  • Total thyroidectomy — This surgery is used to remove all of the thyroid gland.

Head and Neck Cancer Surgery

Surgery is used to treat cancer that affects your larynx, pharynx, sinus, or oral cavity. This includes the mouth, sinuses, nose, and throat.

Types of head and neck cancer surgeries we perform include:

  • Laryngectomy — This is a surgery to remove your larynx and to separate the airway from the mouth, nose, and esophagus.
  • Transoral laser microsurgery (TLIM) — In this laser surgery, doctors use an endoscope to place a laser to remove or destroy a tumor and save as much of your vocal cords as possible. It’s used to treat dysplasia or small laryngeal cancer.
  • Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) — Surgeons remove a tumor in your oropharynx located in the back of your throat.
  • Microvascular reconstructive surgery — Doctors perform this surgery to restore the appearance and function of your mouth. The surgery involves reconstructing part of your jaw, the roof of the mouth, or tongue.
  • Sinonasal surgery — Surgeons treat sinus cancer with this approach, and it’s usually performed through your nose, nasal cavity, or sinuses.

Gastric and Esophageal Cancer Surgery

Surgery is one of the most common approaches to treat stomach and esophageal cancer.

Types of surgery we use to treat gastric and esophageal cancer include:

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection — Surgeons remove or destroy small tumors in the esophagus or stomach working from the inside with a scope.
  • Esophagectomy — Doctors remove some or most of your esophagus to eliminate cancer.
  • Partial gastrectomy — Surgeons use this approach to treat stomach cancer in the middle or lower part of the stomach.
  • Total gastrectomy — Cancer found in the upper area of your stomach is treated with this type of surgery. If your entire stomach must be removed, surgeons connect your esophagus directly to your small intestine.

Gynecological Cancer Surgery

Different surgical approaches are used to treat gynecologic cancers, and it depends on the type of gynecologic cancer you have.

Types of surgery we perform to treat gynecological cancer include:

  • Fertility-sparing surgery — This approach spares your reproductive organs or freezes your eggs or embryos (cryopreservation) to preserve future fertility.
  • Minimally invasive surgery — Also called keyhole surgery, surgeons perform abdominal procedures through small incisions. Minimally invasive techniques include laparoscopy and robotic approaches.
  • Radical cytoreductive (debulking) surgery — This approach is used to remove as much of a tumor as possible.
  • Sentinel lymph node mapping — Surgeons remove lymph nodes containing cancer, usually in endometrial cancer.
  • Single-incision laparoscopic surgery — In this surgery, doctors use a one-inch incision in your belly button to perform surgery. This can reduce scarring and improve your recovery time.

Liver Cancer Surgery

Surgery is one of the most common treatments for liver cancer and helps remove primary liver cancers or cancers that spread to the liver (metastasis). Surgeons can remove up to 80 percent of the liver, and it will grow back if the remaining liver is healthy.

Types of surgery we perform for liver cancer include:

  • Surgical resection — This surgery removes the part of the liver with cancer. This is done both with minimally-invasive (laparoscopic and robotic) techniques, as well as by open (traditional) methods.
  • Liver ablation — Using heat energy, doctors destroy liver tumors without removing any part of the liver.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) — An endoscope, or a tube with a light at the end, is placed in your mouth and gently guided through your throat to diagnose and treat certain cancers.
  • Intrahepatic pump therapy — For people with metastatic colon/rectal cancer, intrahepatic pump therapy administers a higher concentration of chemotherapy directly into the liver. The pump is inserted surgically (usually robotically).

Lung Cancer Surgery

Surgery for lung cancer involves removing part or all of your lung. Depending on the type and stage of lung cancer you have, surgeons may remove the tumor and surrounding cancerous tissue.

There are two approaches to lung cancer surgery — thoracotomy (an incision on the back and side of the chest to access the lung) and minimally invasive surgery.

Types of lung cancer surgery we offer include:

  • Laser surgery — Surgeons use this approach to treat early stage non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Lobectomy — This surgical approach removes part or all of a lobe of your lung.
  • Pneumonectomy — Your entire lung is removed during this procedure.
  • Segmentectomy — Surgeons remove a segment of certain lobes and preserve any tissue not affected by cancer.
  • Sleeve resection — This procedure helps preserve your lung function by removing only part of your large airway.
  • Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) — This surgical approach uses a thin tube with a video camera inserted into your chest through a small incision. Surgeons can view and remove cancer cells.

Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)

This type of surgery is used to remove tumors that have spread to the abdomen’s inner lining (peritoneal surface), most commonly cancers from the appendix, colon, or rectum.

Types of surgery we perform include:

  • Cytoreduction — This is a complex procedure that removes all of the visible tumors sitting on the inner lining of the abdomen and around the intra abdominal organs.
  • HIPEC — During the same surgery as cytoreduction, surgeons wash the abdomen with heated chemotherapy to destroy any tumors too small to see or be removed through cytoreduction.

Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

Pancreas cancers are aggressive, and the best treatment plan requires a multidisciplinary team, including surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, pharmacists, advanced gastroenterologists, interventional radiologists, pathologists, and many others. One important treatment for many patients is surgical removal of the cancer from the pancreas itself. These procedures are complex, and the type of operation depends on tumor location, stage of cancer, and the person’s health.

Types of pancreatic cancer surgery we offer include:

  • Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) — This operation removes the right side of the pancreas, first part of small intestine, gallbladder, and part of the bile duct. The WVU Cancer Institute offers the robotic option, allowing minimally invasive (small incision) surgery.
  • Distal pancreatectomy — This procedure removes the left side of the pancreas and most often a nearby organ called the spleen. The WVU Cancer Institute also offers robotic surgery for this operation.
  • Total pancreatectomy — In rare situations, it is best to remove the entire pancreas. Total pancreatectomy is more common for benign conditions, like chronic pancreatitis, or for pre-malignant lesions. Those undergoing this procedure will have insulin-dependent diabetes for life.
  • Bypass surgery — Sometimes pancreas cancer causes a blockage of the stomach so the person cannot eat. This procedure allows food to leave the stomach by a different route. WVU Medicine offers robotic and endoscopic options for this operation to help with quicker recovery.

Skin Cancer Surgery

Surgery is one of the most common treatments for basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. For skin cancer with a high risk of spreading to surrounding tissue or organs, we combine surgery with treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. Care of these malignancies requires a multidisciplinary treatment team that often consists of primary care physicians, dermatologists, surgical oncologists, plastic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and many others.

Types of skin cancer surgery we offer include:

  • Cryosurgery — In this approach, surgeons use extreme cold to kill skin cancer cells.
  • Mohs surgery — This is a complex surgery that takes many hours. Surgeons remove the cancer cells in very thin layers until all the cancer cells are eliminated.
  • Laser surgery — This surgical approach uses lasers to cut or destroy cancer cells.
  • Reconstructive surgery — Surgeons often utilize skin and subcutaneous tissue from surrounding areas of the body to reconstruct the area where the tissue was removed to treat the skin cancer.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy — Every part of the body drains to a lymph node somewhere. This procedure helps to identify the first lymph node that specifically drains the affected area of the skin. Surgeons then excise this lymph node to test for the spread of cancer.
  • Skin grafting — After resectioning skin cancer, a defect may require tissue coverage from other parts of the body. This skin may be taken in various ways and include full thickness or partial thickness skin grafts depending upon the situation.
  • Wide local excision — Surgeons use this approach to remove a tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue.

Urologic Cancer Surgery

Surgery is used to treat many cancers affecting the prostate, testicl*s, bladder, and kidney.

Types of surgery we offer for urologic cancer include:

  • Biopsy — Doctors use this procedure to remove suspected cancer cells, which are examined by a pathologist to help diagnose and stage cancer.
  • Continent diversion — In this procedure, the surgeon makes a pouch from a piece of your intestine where urine is stored. The urine is emptied through a valve into a catheter.
  • Cystectomy — This is a procedure to remove all or part of your bladder. Surgeons access your bladder through a laparoscopic (small) incision in your abdomen.
  • Nephrectomy — Surgeons use this procedure to remove all or part of one or both of your kidneys. Single-port robotic surgeries are also available to reduce recovery time, pain, and scarring.
  • Orchiectomy — This is a procedure to remove one or both testicl*s.
  • Prostatectomy — Surgeons use this procedure to remove all or part of your prostate. Single-port robotic surgeries are available to reduce recovery time, pain, and scarring.
  • Radical inguinal orchiectomy — This surgery removes the testicl* that has a tumor, as well as the spermatic cord that connects the testicl* to your abdomen.
  • Transurethral resection — This procedure is used to treat early stage bladder cancer, and the surgeon uses a wire loop to remove abnormal tissues or tumors.
Surgical Oncology | WVU Cancer Institute (2024)


What is the difference between an oncologist and a surgical oncologist? ›

Radiation oncologists treat cancer using radiation therapy, which is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. Surgical oncologists treat cancer using surgery, including removing the tumor and nearby tissue during a operation.

What are the most common surgical oncology procedures? ›

The most common procedures performed by surgical oncologists are biopsies and surgery for cancerous growth removal. They can also perform surgery to stage cancer and determine how far cancer has spread. In certain circ*mstances, surgical oncologists may also perform preventive surgeries.

Why would you see a surgical oncologist? ›

Surgical oncology is a field of medicine that uses surgery to treat cancer. Its main goal is to find harmful tumors in your body and remove them. Doctors who practice surgical oncology can also see if you have cancer or find out if the disease has spread to other parts of your body.

How many years is surgical oncology? ›

In order to become a surgical oncologist, one must complete at least a five-year general surgery residency and then a two to three-year surgical oncology fellowship.

Do surgical oncologists remove benign tumors? ›

While we focus on removing the cancerous or benign tumor, we are diligent in preserving surrounding healthy tissue to help you maintain your quality of life.

Which type of oncologist is best? ›

Medical Oncologists

A medical oncologist will collaborate with other physicians to develop the best treatment strategy for you. Your cancer diagnosis will be explained to you, along with its type and stage. You can control your cancer symptoms and adverse effects with their assistance.

What anesthesia is used for oncology surgery? ›

In particular, patients undergoing oncological surgery of the digestive tract often require general anesthesia, which must guarantee analgesia, amnesia, sedation and neuromuscular block during surgery. To get these purposes, anesthesiologists use drugs such as opiates and volatile or intravenous anesthetics.

Which cancers require abdominal surgery? ›

The majority of stomach cancers found by doctors today has progressed past the early stage. Because of this, almost all patients with stomach cancer will require some type of surgery to treat the disease — either a traditional open surgery or a minimally invasive surgery.

Can a surgeon tell if a tumor is malignant? ›

How do you know if a tumor is cancerous? A doctor may perform a physical exam and order blood tests if they suspect cancer, but the only way to confirm the presence of disease is with a biopsy.

Do oncologists do biopsies? ›

Types of oncologists

They focus on different areas of care. Some do tissue biopsies and surgeries. Some deal with things like chemotherapy and biologic therapy. And some focus on radiation therapy.

What does it mean when your doctor sends you to an oncologist? ›

An oncologist is a physician who is highly trained to investigate, diagnose and treat an individual with cancer or suspected cancer. These doctors can treat many different types of cancer in various parts of the patient's body. If you have cancer, an oncologist can make the treatment plan based on pathology reports.

What is the difference between a medical oncologist and a surgical oncologist? ›

A medical oncologist will treat your cancer with chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. A radiation oncologist will treat your cancer with radiation therapy. A surgical oncologist uses surgery to remove tumors.

What is the procedure of surgical oncology? ›

Surgical oncology procedures

The two primary types of cancer surgery are open surgery and minimally invasive surgery. In open surgery, the surgical oncologist makes a large incision, usually to remove all or part of a tumor and some of the surrounding healthy tissue (margins).

How much do surgical oncologists make in the US? ›

How much does a Surgeon-Oncologist make in the United States? The average Surgeon-Oncologist salary in the United States is $376,907 as of May 28, 2024, but the salary range typically falls between $318,736 and $447,336.

Do medical oncologists do procedures? ›

A medical oncologist will treat your cancer with chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. A radiation oncologist will treat your cancer with radiation therapy. A surgical oncologist uses surgery to remove tumors.

Should you see an oncologist before a surgeon? ›

Many times, a patient will meet with a surgeon first, before they meet with a medical oncologist like me,” Morikawa says. “The surgeon will focus on discussing the procedure to remove the tumor and will refer questions about follow-up chemotherapy to me (and vice versa if I see the patient first).

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