Surgery Terms

Biopsy
The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.  

Curative surgery
An operation to remove cancerous tissue. Part or all of the organ or tissue in which the cancer started and a small amount of healthy tissue around the cancer is removed. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed. Curative surgery may be used as primary therapy for localized cancer and is often followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill any cancer cells that remain.  

Cryosurgery
A procedure in which tissue is frozen to destroy abnormal cells. Liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide is used to freeze the tissue. Also called cryoablation and cryosurgical ablation. 

Debulking surgery
Surgical removal of as much of a tumor as possible. Debulking may increase the chance that chemotherapy or radiation therapy will kill all the tumor cells. It may also be done to relieve symptoms or help the patient live longer. Also called tumor debulking.  

Electrosurgery 
A procedure to destroy tissue (such as a tumor) using an electric current.

Laser surgery
A surgical procedure that uses the cutting power of a laser beam to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor.  

Mohs surgery
A surgical procedure used to treat skin cancer. Individual layers of cancer tissue are removed and examined under a microscope one at a time until all cancer tissue has been removed. Also called Mohs micrographic surgery .

Prophylactic surgery
Surgery to remove an organ or gland that shows no signs of cancer, in an attempt to prevent development of cancer of that organ or gland. Prophylactic surgery is sometimes chosen by people who know they are at high risk for developing cancer.  

Palliative surgery
Treatment given to relieve the symptoms and reduce the suffering caused by cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Palliative cancer therapies are given together with other cancer treatments, from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, survivorship, recurrent or advanced disease, and at the end of life 

Restorative or reconstructive surgery
Surgery that is done to reshape or rebuild (reconstruct) a part of the body changed by previous surgery. .

Staging surgery
Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment. 

Definitions courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.