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How a Surgical Oncologist Can Improve Cancer Treatment and Outcomes

August 10, 2023

Within the field of surgical oncology, patients can be treated to prevent cancer, to help diagnose the cancer, to treat a cancer, and to alleviate symptoms related to cancer.

Considerations for a surgical procedure include the type of tumor, location in the body, stage of cancer when diagnosed as well as the patient’s age and ability to tolerate surgery.

Jeffrey P. Lamont, M.D., FACS, surgical oncologist at Texas Oncology Surgical Specialists–Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, explains the role of surgical oncology in the management of a patient’s cancer care and how surgical innovations on the horizon could improve outcomes and quality of life for patients.

What types of cancer do surgical oncologists treat?

Surgical oncology comprises a wide range of specialties. Overall, a surgical oncologist can treat a variety of cancer types such as breast, head and neck, skin (melanoma), abdominal (pancreatic, liver, intestinal), and many others depending on the practice. At Texas Oncology Surgical Specialists, we have a significant breadth of physicians who can perform most surgical cases.

What is minimally invasive surgery and how has it improved side effects and recovery times for cancer patients?

Minimally invasive surgery refers to laparoscopic or robotic surgery, which involves multiple small incisions. The benefits of this form of surgery include the reduced need for post-operative pain medication and it allows patients to return to normal activities earlier than with traditional surgery.

Are there any specific lifestyle changes or post-operative care recommendations to optimize recovery and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence?

The best recommendation is to move your body. We encourage patients to walk as much as possible after surgery, which helps with pain and lessened gastrointestinal side effects. We also recommend patients eat low fat-foods. These post-operative actions can stimulate a patient’s immune system and have been associated with improved outcomes in certain cancers.

How does a surgical oncologist work with/involve a multidisciplinary team in the management of a patient’s care?

Overall, communication as a cancer care team is key in determining each patient’s individual treatment plan. There is constant interplay between the surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists. We also discuss treatment options with the patient’s primary care physician to optimize its effectiveness.

How do you envision the future of cancer care evolving and what (surgical) innovations or breakthroughs are on the horizon that could improve outcomes and quality of life for patients?

Looking ahead, there will be more of an emphasis on minimally invasive surgery, such as innovative endoscopic procedures, to remove cancerous tumors without physical incisions. We also anticipate more targeted therapies for cancers that may eliminate the need for surgery. For example, the field of breast surgery has gone from radical mastectomies to lumpectomies and now has a lesser emphasis on aggressive lymph node surgery. Research studies and multidisciplinary clinical trials will help to lead the direction of surgical oncology over time.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.