If you have been diagnosed with a solid tumour, you are likely to need surgery to remove your tumour and any surrounding tissue at some point during your treatment.

When you are first diagnosed, you may have an operation called a biopsy. This is where a small piece of the tumour is removed and examined to find out whether or not it contains cancer cells.

When is surgery used?

Depending on the size of the tumour, you might have surgery to remove the tumour in the first or second stage of treatment.

If your tumour is removed by surgery and is found to be benign (non-cancerous), then this operation may be the only treatment you need. However, some benign tumours do also need treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

If it’s found to be a cancerous tumour, then you may also need chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill any cancer cells that might be elsewhere in your body.

If your tumour is large, or if removing it might damage any surrounding tissue, you may first be given chemotherapy or radiotherapy to shrink the tumour and increase the chances of successful surgery.

How is surgery done?

Surgery is usually done in an operating theatre at a hospital. Biopsies may be done under local anaesthetic, but most other operations will require a general anaesthetic which sends you to sleep while the operation takes place. When you wake up, the operation will be finished. Sometimes you will be able to go home the same day, but for bigger operations you will need to stay in hospital for a while.

After your surgery, you will probably need to have some painkillers to help with the discomfort. If you are still uncomfortable, or in pain, tell the nurses as they can help with this.

Updated December 2014, next planned review 2017.