Surgery is used to diagnose cancer, determine its stage, and to treat cancer. One common type of surgery that may be used to help with diagnosing cancer is a biopsy.  A biopsy involves taking a tissue sample from the suspected cancer for examination by a specialist in a laboratory. A biopsy is often performed in the physician’s office or in an outpatient surgery center. A positive biopsy indicates the presence of cancer; a negative biopsy may indicate that no cancer is present in the sample.

Surgery is an operation to remove cancer. When surgery is used for treatment, the cancer and some tissue adjacent to the cancer are typically removed.  In addition to providing local treatment of the cancer, information gained during surgery is useful in predicting the likelihood of cancer recurrence and whether other treatment modalities will be necessary.The side effects of surgery depend on many factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the type of operation, and the patient's general health. Patients have some pain after surgery, but this pain can be controlled with medicine. It is also common for patients to feel tired or weak for a while after surgery.

Patients may worry that having a biopsy or other type of surgery for cancer will spread the disease. This is a very rare occurrence because surgeons take special precautions to prevent cancer from spreading during surgery. Also, exposing cancer to air during surgery does not cause the disease to spread.