If your child has been diagnosed with a solid tumour, it is likely that they will need surgery at some point during their treatment.

To help the specialists diagnose your child's cancer, they may have an operation known as a 'biopsy'. This is where a small piece of the lump or tumour is removed and examined to find out whether or not it contains cancer cells.

When is surgery used as a treatment?

Depending on the size of the tumour, your child might have surgery to remove the tumour in the first or second stage of treatment. If the tumour is removed by surgery and is found to be benign (non-cancerous), then this operation may be the only treatment needed.

If it is found to be a cancerous tumour, then your child may also need chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill any cancer cells that might be elsewhere in their body. Some benign tumours also need chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

If the tumour is large, or if removing it might damage any surrounding tissue, your child 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 your child to sleep while the operation takes place.

When they wake up, the operation will be finished and they won’t remember having it done. Sometimes they will be able to go home the same day, but for bigger operations they will need to stay in hospital for a while. 

After surgery, your child will probably be given some painkillers to help with the discomfort. If they are still uncomfortable or in pain, talk to the nurses at the hospital as they will be able to help further.

Where next?

Updated November 2017, next review due 2019.