Surgical oncology is the use of surgery to diagnose or treat cancer, or to manage the symptoms of cancer. The Egyptians pioneered the treatment of cancer using surgery, removing breast tumors as early as the seventh century. These days, surgical oncology is much more complex and effective. Most cancer treatments involve surgery, and in some cases it is the only treatment needed.
Surgical oncologists work together with medical oncologists and radiation oncologists to provide care for cancer patients. Along with medical oncologists, surgical oncologists tend to be the primary providers of cancer treatment. Almost every cancer patient will have a medical or surgical oncologist who is in charge of managing their treatment and making decisions about their care.
The specialized knowledge of a surgical oncologist is less about surgical techniques (which may be very similar to techniques used by a general surgeon) and more about an understanding of cancer itself. Surgical oncologists have an advanced knowledge of how cancer presents and changes, and they know the best way to use surgery to treat cancer.
Surgical oncology is a rapidly advancing specialty, and many new techniques and procedures have been developed in recent years, including minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery. A surgical oncologist is able to safely wield these complicated techniques to remove tumors from the body.