Cancer Surgery

Learn how we use surgical oncology to treat cancer.

There are more than 100 types of cancer, and for many types, surgery is the most effective treatment option. Cancer surgery, also known as surgical oncology, is a grouping of techniques we use to remove cancerous tumors and cells from the body.CancerSurgery OperatingRoom

Our cancer surgery center is one of the largest and most experienced in the country. Doctors come from around the world to learn new surgical techniques from our experienced surgeons. We offer a new telemedicine platform to link cancer patients and referring physicians from around the world to improve coordination and communication of care and access to clinical trials.

Before we recommend surgery, our tumor board  meets to discuss the options. We bring together surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, nurses, and other providers to discuss each patient’s case and devise the best treatment plan from all perspectives.

Types of cancer surgery

Traditional surgery (or open surgery) is the type most people are familiar with -- surgery is performed by opening up the body with large incisions. Traditional surgery has historically been the go-to method for cancer surgery, and it is still effective to treat some cancers. But our surgeons use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible.

Minimally invasive surgical techniques use small incisions (or sometimes none at all) to remove tumors. These methods cause less bleeding and pain after surgery, which means recovery time is quicker and patients are left with fewer scars.

We also can offer some patients minimally invasive surgery when doctors have told them traditional surgery is too risky. Patients with some advanced cancers, older patients, or those with other serious health conditions may be good candidates for minimally invasive surgery.

Some minimally invasive cancer surgeries we use include:

  • Catheter- or scope-based surgery
  • Multi- or single-port laparoscopic surgery
  • Robot-assisted surgery

Why choose Henry Ford for your cancer surgery

At Henry Ford, you will find a rare team approach to cancer surgery, where you have access to surgeons who are all guided by the same demonstrated commitment to quality. The surgical cancer specialists who treat complex and rare cancers are all fellowship trained and have dedicated their practices to certain types of cancers. They team up with community-based surgeons to offer comprehensive care to people throughout the Midwest and beyond.

We are a national leader in minimally invasive robotic surgery techniques. Many of these procedures are trialed and implemented first by our surgical oncologists. We offer advanced robotic surgery for prostate, kidney, gynecologic, lung, and head and neck cancers. We led the development of national guidelines for the treatment of metastatic brain tumors, which have been adopted by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. We were also the first in Michigan to offer patients a full-field intra-operative MRI, which allows for almost 100% brain tumor removal during surgery,

Interventional Radiology

Interventional radiology procedures are image-guided -- including X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans. This technology allows doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures that offer several benefits, including:

  • More treatment options for patients with inoperable cancers or tumors
  • Targeted treatment that concentrates on cancerous tumors, preserving healthy tissue
  • Potentially reduced risks and side effects when compared to traditional treatments such as open surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy

We often use two main types of interventional radiology cancer treatment:

  • Transarterial embolization: Tiny beads with chemotherapy or radiation elements that block blood flow and kill liver tumors
  • Percutaneous ablation: Killing tumor cells with needles or probes:
    • Cryoablation: Uses extreme cold
    • Radiofrequency and microwave ablation: Uses heat
    • NanoKnife®: Uses high-voltage electricity

To perform interventional procedures, we first sterilize the skin and apply local anesthetic to numb the area we’re operating on. Then we’ll position you in the imaging machine (we often use a CT scanner) to get a good view of the tumor.

The doctor will make a small incision and insert a thin probe into the skin. Then the doctor will use the CT scanner image to guide the probe into proper position. Once the probe is in place, we’ll administer extreme cold, heat, or high-voltage electricity through the probe into the tumor to kill it and a small area of healthy tissue around it. After the procedure, we’ll move you to a recovery room to be monitored. You likely can go home the same day or the next morning.

We perform more than 8,000 interventional radiology procedures a year, including procedures for women’s cancers and digestive cancers. Our interventional radiology team has pioneered many “firsts” in the field.

Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy -- also called laser light therapy or laser surgery -- involves special drugs that make tumors sensitive to medical-strength laser light beams, which we use to destroy tumor cells without harming healthy tissue. We were the first cancer center in Michigan to offer this treatment. We often use this treatment in combination with another cancer surgery.

To start, we give the special drugs through an IV. The drugs settle into the cancer cells over one to three days. Then we apply the laser light, which "turns on" the photosensitizer drugs. The therapy causes tumor cells to break down over time with minimal damage to normal cells. After photodynamic therapy, you may be sensitive to sunlight for up to four weeks. We recommend that patients wear sunglasses and full-body covering clothing outdoors to avoid redness and swelling of the skin (similar to sunburn).

What cancers can be treated with photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy has become an explosive area of scientific and clinical research in the development of treatments for a variety of cancers, including:


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