You are here: Home / Services and Specialities / Chris Hugh Sharp Cancer Centre / Cancer Treatments / Surgery as Cancer Treatment

Surgery as Cancer Treatment

Many people with cancer are treated with surgery. Surgery treats cancer by removing tumours from the body. Most of the time, healthy tissue around the tumour will be removed as well as the tumour itself. This can help prevent the tumour from growing back. The surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes.

It takes time to recover from surgery. You may feel tired or weak after having surgery. Before your surgery, your health care team will talk to you about pain management, and they may also give you a prescription for medication(s) to take afterwards.

Sometimes surgery is the only treatment required. In many instances there will be other cancer treatments too.

Surgery can be used to:

  • Remove the entire tumour: Surgery removes cancer that is contained in one area.
  • Debulk a tumour: Debulking is used when removing an entire tumour might damage an organ or the body. Removing part of a tumour can help other treatments work better.
  • Ease cancer symptoms: Surgery is used to remove tumours that are causing pain or pressure.

Our health care team will:

  • Prepare you with all of the information and educational resources you need to plan for and around your surgery.
  • Provide information specific to your procedure.
  • Provide information to help you plan care post discharge.
  • Before surgery you will be given an appointment with the Pre-Admission Unit, where information is available to you and your family prior to your surgery so that you are fully informed
  • The length of your appointment in the Pre-Admission Unit will depend upon the type of surgery you having and also your overall health (e.g. some appointments may last several hours).

At pre-admission we evaluate your health, identify any factors that will affect your surgery plan and, finalize the plan for the day of your surgery. Our interprofessional team works collaboratively on your assessment. We also will review all of the important instructions with you.

Your visit to pre-admission is a very important part of preparing you for surgery.  


  • Bring your OHIP card and a list of all of your current medications and supplements.
  • Come with a friend or family member. They can help you remember information or ask questions during your visit.

You must come to your pre-admission visit. If you do not come, we cannot proceed with your surgery.

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before surgery and have nothing to eat or drink the day of surgery. This also means no gum, candy or smoking.
  • It is very important that your stomach be completely empty. It is important to follow all special instructions and preparations that you were given during your pre-admission visit.
  • If there is any change in your health between your pre-admission visit and the day of surgery please notify your physician immediately.
  • Think positively
  • Stay as active as you are able to
  • Follow a balanced diet and eat healthy foods before your surgery
  • Call your family doctor or surgeon if you have medical concerns
  • Be open and honest with your health care team:
    • Tell your surgeon if you smoke or drink alcohol - it can affect your recovery after your surgery
    • If you smoke, try to quit. If you can't quit, smoke less. Smoking irritates your lungs, so smokers have more breathing problems after surgery.
  • Tell your medical team if you are taking blood thinners, including Aspirin
  • Keep taking all your usual medications unless your health care team tells you otherwise.
  • Someone must take you home after your surgery
  • Arrange for someone to help you once you return home
  • Depending on your surgery, you may need help for a few days or a few weeks with tasks like laundry, cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping

Related Topics