By Lyman Lyons
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Additional resources for Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancer (The Biology of Cancer)
William Halsted pioneered one of the first successful surgeries for cancer—the mastectomy for breast cancer—in the 1890s. His technique removed the breast, the muscles in the chest, and the lymph nodes under the arm. It was used until the 1970s, when doctors found that less drastic surgery was also successful. Despite being an ancient treatment, over half of today’s cancer patients will undergo surgery. Surgery has several uses in treating cancer. It can prevent a cancer from developing by removing lesions, such as polyps in the colon and suspicious skin moles, before they have a chance to turn into cancer.
Cancer patients can bring DECIDING ON TREATMENT along a family member or friend to a meeting with the doctor and take notes. The doctor may give the patient pamphlets or handouts about the type of cancer in question. Numerous books on cancer are available from public libraries and bookstores. Patients can also get up-to-date information on the Internet from the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute. Many patients are not confident about discussing their condition with doctors.
Surgery is frequently combined with other treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, because one type of treatment alone may not be effective. Surgery can remove the main tumor, radiation can destroy cancer cells left behind in nearby tissues, and chemotherapy can kill cancer cells that have spread through the blood and lymphatic system. SIDE EFFECTS OF SURGERY Surgery for cancer can leave permanent changes in how the body looks and functions. A surgery for colon cancer called a colostomy removes part of the colon and creates an opening, called a stoma, in the abdomen.