Surgical Oncology Services

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we understand the complexity of cancer.

That's why we offer the latest and most advanced surgical techniques to treat cancer. Our world renowned surgeons helped invent or refine many of the procedures they perform.

When you have cancer surgery with us, you can feel sure that your care is in the best possible hands.

Our surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists work together to decide which treatments are right for you.

Based on the type of cancer you have, these may include:

surgeons performing operation

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To learn more about surgical oncology treatment at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, call 412-692-2852.

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What Is Surgical Oncology?

Surgical oncologists are surgeons who have also received extensive training in how to diagnose and treat cancer.

Depending on the type of cancer you have, surgical oncologists may take part in multiple phases of your care.

For example, your surgical oncologist may:

  • Remove one or more small tissue samples (biopsies) to diagnose your cancer.
  • Operate to remove part or all of your tumor.
  • Do more biopsies, during or after your treatment, to see how effective treatment has been.

How surgical oncology works

At times, strong drugs (like those used in chemotherapy) or radiation can kill cancer cells and stop the illness. But other times, cancers need to be removed through surgery.

Tumors may:

  • Affect the proper function of organs or other structures.
  • Grow so large they block or invade other parts of the body.
  • Produce substances that make the cancer worse.

Our surgeons will assess your tumor to see if it can be removed. This can potentially cure your cancer or reduce its effects.

In addition to removing your tumor or diagnosing your cancer, your doctor may suggest surgery for other reasons, such as to:

  • Debulk (remove part of) the tumor. Surgeons do this either because they can't safely remove the whole tumor or to help prepare your body for further treatment.
  • Learn the cancer's exact location.
  • See if your cancer has spread or affects how well your other organs work.
  • Restore your body's appearance or function.
  • Relieve certain side effects you may be experiencing.

Types of cancer surgery

Surgeons can use:

  • Minimally invasive techniques to remove cancerous tissues. Small "keyhole" incisions can reduce your time in the hospital healing. They can also make it easier to get back to your normal daily life.
  • Advanced robotic surgery combines minimally invasive techniques with robotic technology to achieve an even greater degree of precision.
  • Open surgery if a tumor is very large or not accessible by minimally invasive methods.

In each case, proper anesthesia and pain control make surgery and recovery as comfortable as possible.

Your care team will discuss which surgical approach is best for your situation.

Learn more about our surgical oncology treatment options at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Why Choose UPMC Hillman Cancer Center for Cancer Surgery?

Our cancer surgeons have expert knowledge and skill in the most advanced techniques.

We work with each person and their referring doctor to craft a precise plan of action.

Some highly specialized and minimally invasive surgical options we offer include:

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and western New York. This means world-class treatments backed by best practices and leading-edge protocols are often available right in your backyard. With our network of community hospitals and outpatient surgical centers, you may be able to receive some or all of your cancer care without traveling to Pittsburgh.

Types of Cancers We Treat with Surgical Oncology

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center surgical oncologists treat every type of cancer, but we have distinct expertise in:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Hepatobiliary cancer
  • Neuroendocrine tumors
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • All peritoneal surface malignancies including those of the appendix, mesothelioma, and others.

Learn more about the cancers we treat.

Surgical Oncology at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Our cancer surgeons:

  • Work with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other experts to offer a range of care.
  • Talk with you about your goals for treatment and help you reach those goals.
  • Treatment goals may include surgery, chemo, radiation, clinical trials, symptom management, and maintaining quality of life.
  • Produce results on par with, and at times better than, other leading cancer centers throughout the U.S. In some cases, we can double survivorship time for certain people. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside consistently ranks for cancer care, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Specialty Cancer Surgery Programs and Centers

Part of what makes UPMC Hillman special is our expertise in offering people surgical oncology procedures for many forms of cancer.

In some cases, our surgeons can safely operate on those who other centers have told surgery wasn't an option for them.

David C. Koch Regional Cancer Therapy Center

For people with late-stage and advanced gastrointestinal cancers who can't have surgery, regional perfusion may be an option. This is a treatment where doctors apply chemotherapy directly to the site of the cancer.

Specialty programs as part of the Koch center include:

  • GI Cancer Program. For 20 years, our team has used HIPEC to treat complex abdominal malignancies.
  • Liver Tumor Program. Our team employs advanced regional perfusion therapies for liver cancers, including hepatic artery infusion (HAI) and isolated hepatic perfusion (IHP).

Other cancer surgery programs and centers include:

  • Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program. People receive personal and coordinated treatment that combines experts in surgical oncology, dermatology, medical oncology, pathology, and radiation oncology.
  • Pancreatic Cancer Center. Our pancreatic cancer program has more experience with robotic pancreatic surgeries than any other cancer center in the U.S.
  • Robotic Cancer Surgery. More people have received robotic-assisted surgical oncology procedures at UPMC Hillman than nearly anywhere else in the world.
  • Sarcoma Specialty Care and Treatment Program. A team-approach to care is especially important with sarcoma, which can be very different in each person. That's what our team of experts provides with this program.

Complete cancer care

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center treats the whole person by offering a range of support services that can make cancer treatments more effective and patients more comfortable.

We know that a cancer diagnosis changes your life and touches the lives of your family and friends.

We're committed to giving you and your loved ones the tools you need to cope with and battle this disease.

Our support network includes:

  • Nutrition services – Our specially trained dietitians can meet with you and your family to create a custom meal plan, help manage appetite loss, and provide healthy eating tips.
  • Mental and emotional health services – You can rely on the UPMC Hillman's Center for Counseling and Cancer Support to help you and your family cope at each stage of your cancer journey.
  • Integrative oncology – Our Nurse Ambassador Program offers our cancer patients who are undergoing treatment access to special support services. Options include aromatherapy, breathing techniques, meditation, hand and foot massage, and seated yoga.
  • Pain management – Our dedicated pain management experts will work with you to manage pain at all points during and after your treatment.
  • Palliative care – Team members with special expertise in palliative care focus on symptom management, spiritual care, and other support services for you and your loved ones.
  • Patient navigator services

Social workers are also part of our team.

Our specially trained oncology social workers can help you and your family understand your options and overcome barriers to treatment by providing access to:

  • Community resources
  • Transportation services
  • Other practical support

Cutting-edge research

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region recognized by the National Cancer Institute.

This means patients have the chance to benefit from the latest cancer research. It also means they may be able to take part in clinical trials of the most advanced cancer treatments to date.