Surgical Oncology: Cut it out

So, I have discussed what I do.  The second category of physicians that participate in treating cancer is our surgery brothers and sisters.  These physicians do a minimum of five years of residency (i.e. training to operate).  Many will opt to specialize in specific body sites such as: colorectal, breast, etc.  Others do cancer surgery without a fellowship, as they may have trained at a facility that sees a high volume of cancer.

The principle of cancer surgery is very simple.  Take out the tumor and leave none behind. Sounds simple, right?  Well it can be difficult because some tumor may look like normal tissue or may be in a very tough location to get out safely.  That is where experience and training come in handy. The top surgeons will still have cases where the pathologist will see “positive margins” or the scalpel cut through the tumor.  If this happens, then it is either more surgery to get the remaining cancer our, or the chemotherapy/radiation therapy options are now in play. This is a very simplified explanation of some very intensive procedures that surgeons do every day.

When we went to an 80 hour work week during training, the surgeons were worried how they were going to get enough training in during residency.  This group works their tails off in residency and as staff physicians.


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