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Surgical Oncology


Surgery is often the preferable option for local control of cancer. Successful removal of a localized cancer can be one of the best approaches to treat cancer patients and provide them with improved quality of life.

Surgical Oncology at Penn Vet

There are several reasons to choose a surgical approach. Dr. Mison, Surgical oncology at Ryan Hospital

  • Diagnostic Intent: The first is to gather tissue for diagnosis. In this case, surgery is used to remove tissue for biopsy. The tissue is examined by diagnostic pathologists such that the most accurate diagnosis and treatment protocol can be made.
  • Curative Intent: The second reason is to use surgery for curative intent. In this instance, the surgeon’s intent is to remove cancerous tissue or tumors with wide margins, with no cancer left behind. This approach can include other treatment modalities such as radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Cytoreductive Surgery: The third strategy is cytoreductive surgery.  This involves planned incomplete excision of a tumor and is indicated when complete excision carries unacceptable consequences.  The goal is to is to “downstage” the disease to microscopic level, i.e. decrease tumor burden, and therefore enhance the response to an adjuvant therapy (e.g. radiation therapy or chemotherapy).
  • Palliative Care: The fourth surgical strategy is for palliative care. In this instance, the purpose of the surgery is to improve the quality of the patient’s life. While this surgical approach may improve the quality of the patient’s life, it may not necessarily extend the life of the patient.

When you and your care team have decided on a surgical approach, you will want to make sure your veterinary surgeon has experience treating the type of cancer your companion animal has been diagnosed with.

In any of the surgical options described, the most qualified veterinarian is a surgical oncologist, certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgery or a surgeon with extensive experience in surgical oncology who is well versed in tumor biology and the role of surgery in the treatment of cancer.

Veterinary surgeons who are board certified have had extra training in specialty areas. They have taken and passed certification tests approved by experts in their field. To keep their certification, veterinarians must continue their education and keep up with advances and changes in their specialty area.

Not all veterinarians who are specialists are board certified, and doctors do not need to be board certified to be excellent caregivers. Still, many doctors become board certified in at least one specialty.