It is wise to "shop around" and explore the various treatment options you might have available to make a truly informed decision. Both intentionally and unintentionally, physicians can be biased in their treatment recommendations. You should be aware that there are three main modalities for treating cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy; each of these modalities are represented by specially trained oncologic surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Each treatment modality has its unique advantages and disadvantages. Modern cancer treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach because a single treatment modality is often not enough. Consulting with physicians that represent the three main treatment modalities, although not always necessary, will give you the best chance of making an informed decision.
Cancer treatment, like any medical treatment, requires an individualized approach. In addition to your individual characteristics, there are two key elements that will help guide your treatment options: cancer stage and cancer cell type. There are cancer treatment guidelines such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, which is a good starting point if you have a medical background. The National Cancer Institute has excellent information tailored to patients on most cancer types. Making a cancer treatment choice is often an overwhelming process for both patients and their families. The first step is to choose your cancer team to assist you in the decision process. For additional information look at our patient resources section.
You should start with our patient resources.
Although this is a surgical question, it is an important and common question. Despite negative imaging scans before surgery, sometimes it is only during surgery that the surgeon discovers that the tumor has already spread to other organs. This is because direct visual, manual, and pathologic examination of the tumor area, lymph nodes, and adjacent organs yields additional staging information that imaging scans can miss. If tumor spread is discovered, some patients think that the surgical procedure caused it, when in fact it was there all along. This has help create the myth that surgery causes cancer to spread when exposed to air. Unfortunately, this belief is quite common in Eastern North Carolina.