Oncologic surgery is a large, and often misunderstood, subject that requires an in-depth understanding of the different specialities within the field. From paediatric oncology to radiation oncology, let’s take a moment to clarify the term ‘oncology’ and exactly what it consists of.

Simply put, oncology is the study of cancer. And an oncologist is a doctor who treats cancer. Generally, once a person is diagnosed with cancer, an oncologist will proceed with managing then person’s care and treatment.

Where most people become unstuck is in understanding the three different areas of oncology and how they operate. The field of oncology consist of medical, surgical, and radiation:


medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapy.


surgical oncologistremoves the tumour and nearby tissue during an operation. He or she also performs certain types of biopsies.


radiation oncologist treats cancer using radiation therapy

There are many other specialty areas within oncology, which include:

Gynaecologic Oncologist

gynaecologic oncologist treats gynaecological cancers, such as uterine cancer and cervical cancer.

Paediatric Oncologist

Some types of cancer occur most often, but not only, in children and teenagers. These include certain brain tumours, leukaemia, osteosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma.  In these cases, an adult may decide to work with a paediatric oncologist, due to their expertise and knowledge.


A haematologist-oncologist diagnoses and treats blood cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.

When it is determined cancer may be present, further tests may include:

Blood Tests

While it is dependent on the type of cancer in the body, high or low levels of particular substances are common signs of cancer. Blood tests are also one of the most-effective ways for detecting any vital abnormalities in the body. As such, lab tests of then blood, urine, or other bodily fluids that measure these certain substances can assist in the diagnosis phase. However, it is of utmost importance to understand that abnormal blood work is not a sure sign of cancer. While blood tests are a fundamental tool, doctors cannot rely on them alone to accurately diagnose cancer.

Imaging Procedures

Imaging procedures create pictures of specified regions within the body, which assist the doctor in detecting abnormalities or the presence of any tumours. With advances in technology, so too is there improvements in the different methods for conducting an imaging procedure, including:

  • CT Scan: An x-ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of your organs. You may receive a dye or other contrast material to highlight areas inside the body. The purpose of using a contrast material is that it helps to make the pictures easier to read and clearly indicates any blockages or abnormalities within the organs.
  • Nuclear scan: For this scan, you receive an injection of a small amount of radioactive material, often referred to as a ‘tracer’. It flows through your bloodstream and is collected by certain bones or organs. A machine called a scanner detects and measures the radioactivity. The scanner creates pictures of bones or organs on a computer screen or on film. Your body gets rid of the radioactive substance quickly. This type of scan may also be called radionuclide scan.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound device sends out sound waves that people cannot hear. The waves bounce off tissues inside your body like an echo. A computer uses these echoes to create a picture of areas inside your body. This picture is called a sonogram.
  • MRI: A strong magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas in your body. Your doctor can view these pictures on a monitor and print them on film.
  • PET scan: For this scan, you receive an injection of a tracer. Then, a machine makes 3-D pictures that show where the tracer collects in the body. These scans show how organs and tissues are working.
  • X-rays: X-rays use low doses of radiation to create pictures of the inside of your body.


In most cases, doctors need to do a biopsy to make a diagnosis of cancer. A biopsy is a procedure in which the doctor removes a sample of tissue. A pathologist  then looks at the tissue under a microscope to identify if there is any cancer present in the tissue. The sample may be removed in several ways:

  • With a needle: The doctor uses a needle to withdraw tissue or fluid.
  • With an endoscope: The doctor looks at areas inside the body using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope. The scope is inserted through a natural opening, such as the mouth. Then, the doctor uses a special tool to remove tissue or cells through the tube.
  • With surgery: Surgery may be excisional or incisional.
    • In an excisional biopsy, the surgeon removes the entire tumour. Often some of the normal tissue around the tumour also is removed.
    • In an incisional biopsy, the surgeon removes just part of the tumour.

What Are the Different Types of Surgery Used in Cancer Treatment?

Some surgeries are used in combination with other types of treatment. Types [i] of surgeries include:

Curative surgery

Curative surgery removes the cancerous tumour or growth from the body. Surgeons use curative surgery when the cancerous tumour is localized to a specific area of the body. This type of treatment is often considered the primary treatment. However, other types of cancer treatments, such as radiation, may be used before or after the surgery.

Preventive surgery

Preventive surgery is used to remove tissue that does not contain cancerous cells, but may develop into a malignant tumour. For example, polyps in the colon may be considered precancerous tissue and preventative surgery may be performed to remove them.

Diagnostic surgery

Diagnostic surgery helps to determine whether cells are cancerous. Diagnostic surgery is used to remove a tissue sample for testing and evaluation (in a laboratory by a pathologist). The tissue samples help to confirm a diagnosis, identify the type of cancer, or determine the stage of the cancer.

Staging surgery

Staging surgery works to uncover the extent of cancer, or the extent of the disease in the body. Laparoscopy (a viewing tube with a lens or camera is inserted through a small incision to examine the inside of the body and to remove tissue samples) is an example of a surgical staging procedure.

Debulking surgery

Debulking surgery removes a portion, though not all, of a cancerous tumour. It is used in certain situations when removing an entire tumour may cause damage to an organ or the body. Other types of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation, may be used after debulking surgery is performed.

Palliative surgery

Palliative surgery is used to treat cancer at advanced stages. It does not work to cure cancer, but to relieve discomfort or to correct other problems cancer or cancer treatment may have created.

Restorative surgery

Restorative surgery is sometimes used as a follow-up to curative or other surgeries to change or restore a person’s appearance or the function of a body part. For example, women with breast cancer sometimes need breast reconstruction surgery to restore the physical shape of the affected breast(s). Curative surgery for oral cancer can cause a change in the shape and appearance of a person’s mouth. Restorative surgery may be performed to address these effects.

At Paula Cliffin Skin, I specialise in post-oncologic surgery skincare management in Raby Bay. With various chemicals being pumped into the body during treatment comes detrimental and long-lasting effects to the skin, if not treated correctly pre, during and post-treatment. I have over 20 years’ experience’ in providing bespoke and expert advice to cancer patients, to ensure the health of their body’s largest organ – the skin.

To get started on your journey to recovery and greater health, please call me today on 0438 735 990 or simply book an appointment using my easy-to-use online booking system. I look forward to getting started on your post-oncologic surgery skincare management in Raby Bay.

Oaula Cliffin

Paula Cliffin

Dermal Facialist/Practising Corneotherapist
Certified in Oncology Aesthetics (COA)
Phone: 0438 735 990 (Appointment Only)


The advice on my oncology pages is just advice. It is in no way medical advice. The advice I offer comes from many years of experience with health challenged clients and endless, ongoing education to ensure I offer my clients the best advice and products on the market. If you do have any concerns, I strongly advise you to consult your medical team.