The surgeon's role varies in pediatric cancer care. Sometimes, the surgeons "do surgery"; and other times they don't -- yet still may be involved in the child's care. At Comer Children's, all children benefit from the teamwork of various physicians, as well as other members of the pediatric cancer care team.
Here is a look at some of the common ways that pediatric surgeons may be a part of a child's cancer care:
Minimally Invasive Surgery to Remove Tumors
The pediatric surgeons at Comer Children's are recognized worldwide as leaders in using minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat a variety of conditions in children, including some cancers. Because it uses much smaller incisions than traditional surgery, minimally invasive methods usually mean less pain, easier recovery, less scarring or disfiguring, and more normal growth after surgery. Whenever possible, surgeons here prefer minimally invasive surgery to remove solid tumors located virtually anywhere in the child's body.
Experts in Standard Surgery, Too
Just because minimally invasive is newer doesn't always mean it's the best option for every child. Our surgeons are skilled in the full spectrum of surgical options, from minimally invasive to traditional open surgery. We recommend the approach that best meets each child's needs.
Combining Surgical Treatment with Other Therapies
If surgery is recommended (minimally invasive or traditional surgery), it often is one component of a multi-dimensional approach to eliminating cancer. For example, surgery to remove a tumor in the kidney may be followed with chemotherapy to destroy remaining cancer cells. Or, the team may use radiation therapy first, to shrink a tumor in the brain or bones before surgery. It's all part of our collaborative, comprehensive approach to treating childhood cancers.
Brain and Spinal Tumors
University of Chicago pediatric neurosurgeons use minimally invasive techniques to reach tumors that may be deep within the brain or within the spine, including tumors that cannot be reached by traditional surgery. Stereotactic imaging and other very detailed imaging technologies reveal the exact location and dimensions of the tumor, so the neurosurgeon can be very precise in removing only cancerous tissue and protecting healthy tissue. We treat the full range of brain-related tumors, including neurofibromatosis, eye tumors, and other conditions.
Pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors
Surgery to remove tumors is the standard treatment for bone cancer (osteosarcoma). At many hospitals, that means amputation. At Comer Children's, we use innovative techniques to avoid amputation. More than 20 years ago, this was one of the first hospitals offering less radical limb-salvage methods as an alternative to amputation.
Today, our pediatric orthopedic surgeons are among the first in the U.S. performing articular-sparing surgery -- a refinement of the limb-salvage technique. This newest technique preserves as much of the child's own bone or joint as possible. Cadaver bone and tissue is then fitted to the child's natural bone like puzzle pieces -- resulting in a joint or limb that is even stronger and remains more stable as the child grows, and giving kids a better chance to be active after cancer surgery.
Articular-sparing surgery for osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
University of Chicago general and thoracic surgeons may be called in to address bone cancer that has spread to the lung (metastatic lung disease). These skilled surgeons carefully remove affected tissue while preserving the child's lung function.
Learn more about our pediatric sarcoma/bone cancer care
Leukemia and Lymphoma
Leukemia (a bone marrow- and blood-related malignancy) is the most common type of cancer among children. There are several different types of leukemia which, together, account for about one-third of all childhood cancers. Lymphomas are related, but not as common in children. Neither leukemias nor lymphomas have "solid" tumors that can be removed surgically. Nonetheless, pediatric surgeons often participate in the care of children with these conditions by placing "access lines" (venous access device) that make it more comfortable for kids to get repeated chemotherapy treatments and for doctors to take biopsies.
Learn about our childhood leukemia care services