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Can surgeons see cancer?

Cancer is a tragic disease that kills patients after years of suffering. The World Health Organization reports that cancer is the primary cause of death around the globe, with ten million reported fatalities.

This disease comes from the abnormal growth and division of cells into tumours. Factors that lead to cancer include genetics, old age, radiation, chemicals, and infections.

An unhealthy diet and harmful habits like smoking can also cause cancer.

Since there is no cure yet for cancer, early detection is crucial. Surgeons perform biopsies. With the tissues they extract, specialists can determine if a patient has cancer and its severity.

Here, you will learn how surgeons see and diagnose cancer through surgical biopsies based on the articles by the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, and the Mayo Clinic.

What are surgical biopsies?

During a biopsy, a surgeon makes an incision to take out a suspected tumour or cancer. He can either remove a piece of tissue or take out the entire lump or area.

After the surgeon takes out the suspected cancer sample, the pathologist will examine the tissue.

After testing it in the laboratory, the pathologist will report to the oncologist, a cancer specialist. He will determine if the tissue is cancerous or not.

Finally, the oncologist will pass the findings to the physician and surgeon. They will deliver the grim news to the patient and provide the treatment options and procedures that they may take.

How are biopsies performed?

Surgeons use different procedures and technologies to get the suspicious tissue based on its location. Since surgical biopsies can be painful, the patient will receive anesthesia.

Bone marrow biopsy

If there are potential cancer cells in the blood, a bone marrow biopsy is necessary.

In this procedure, the surgeon will inject a long needle into the patient’s hipbone. This needle will penetrate the bone and absorb the tissue.

Bone marrow biopsy can determine leukemia (cancer of the bone marrow and the blood), lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), and myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells).

Endoscopy biopsy

In this procedure, the surgeon inserts an endoscope, a thin tube with a flashlight, into the patient’s mouth, rectum, or skin. This tube gives way for the surgeons’ tools that take out the suspected cancer tissue.

Needle biopsy

If the tumour is touchable through the skin, the surgeon may perform a needle biopsy. Lumps in the breast or lymph nodes, for example, can undergo a needle biopsy.

There are different types of needle biopsy:

  • A core needle biopsy involves a large needle with a cutting tip. This procedure takes out more sample tissues than other needle biopsies.
  • In a fine-needle aspiration, a syringe with a long needle removes suspicious fluids and cells.
  • During an image-guided biopsy, the surgeon also uses technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, or an X-ray to guide them. This kind of biopsy takes out suspicious tissue in deeper areas.

Skin biopsy

Through a skin biopsy, the surgeon removes the suspicious cancer tissues on the skin. The surgeon can either shave the skin surface or make an incision to take out the tissue.

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