How is surgery used to treat tumors?

Surgery is the main treatment for some cancers and for many noncancerous tumors. If a tumor is cancerous, often doctors use chemotherapy or radiation therapy to shrink it before surgery.

The type of surgery your child needs depends on the tumor and how it affects them. Your child may receive care from:

Sometimes it is better not to do surgery. Our Cancer and Blood Disorders Center brings together surgeons and experts from many fields. Together with you, we decide the best treatment plan for your child.

What's special about surgery at Seattle Children’s?

    • Seattle Children's neurology and neurosurgery programs were ranked #1 in the West and #9 nationally in 2016 by U.S. News & World Report. Research shows that centers – like Seattle Children’s – that do many surgeries every year are more likely to have better results for their patients.
    • Doctors in our Bone Cancer and Sarcoma Clinic are leaders in developing ways to save the limbs of children with bone tumors. Learn more about limb-sparing surgery.
    • For children whose liver must be removed because of a tumor, Seattle Children’s has the only pediatric Liver Transplant Program in the Pacific Northwest. Outcomes of patients who receive liver transplants at Seattle Children’s are among the best in the nation.
    • We are specially trained to care for kids. Our surgeons who focus on cancer care in children are all board certified in pediatric surgery. Learn more.
    • We have the largest team of anesthesiologists who train and work only with children.

    • We are developing ways to remove tumors that are less invasive than traditional surgery. We have published more results in the medical literature on using minimally invasive surgery than most other children’s hospitals.
    • Managing your child's pain after surgery is critical to their healing. That’s why we use pain medicines made especially for children. We use regional anesthesia and alternatives like acupuncture when those methods will help your child.
    • We are the only children’s hospital in the Pacific Northwest – and one of just a few in the United States – to offer laser ablation surgery for children with some types of brain tumors.
    • We use a “growing prosthesis” in children younger than 10 who have had part of a leg bone removed. This reduces the need for surgery to lengthen their affected leg as they grow. The plastic implant releases a spring when it is exposed to an electromagnetic field. The spring stretches your child's bone so the affected leg matches their healthy leg.

    • Procedures such as sentinel lymph node biopsy help us decide the best therapy for children who have skin cancers or soft tissue cancers. Few children’s centers offer this.
    • Our neurosurgeons use a stereotactic computer-assisted navigation system to plan and guide procedures. This lets surgeons see a patient’s brain in detail during surgery and track the exact location of surgical tools.
    • We use imaging tools such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) during surgery to better identify cancerous tumors and the stage of cancer.
    • Doctors at Seattle Children’s were pioneers in using MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans to check that chemotherapy has shrunk a child’s tumors before surgery. This helps ensure the best timing for surgery.

    • Our research studies increase your child’s treatment options. Studies of new treatments are called clinical or therapeutic trials. As national leaders in pediatric cancer research, we can offer our patients phase 1 clinical trials that are not available at most centers. Often our doctors lead these studies.
    • Laboratory research by Seattle Children’s scientists and doctors helped develop a drug that is now offered in a phase 1 trial for young patients with brain tumors. The drug lights up cancer cells so surgeons can see and remove brain tumors with greater precision. Read more about Tumor Paint BLZ-100.
    • We are a founding member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and part of COG’s Phase I Consortium. COG is an international organization of childhood cancer specialists. We work together to improve cure rates for many forms of childhood cancer.
    • Our surgeons who serve on COG committees include Dr. Kenneth Gow, Dr. Kathleen Kieran and Dr. Margarett Shnorhavorian.

    • We are experienced in caring for patients from newborns through young adults.
    • We focus on your whole child. In addition to surgeons and medical doctors, your child will get care they need from specialists in nutrition, pain management, social work, physical therapy and other fields. Read more about the supportive care we offer.
    • Child life specialists are important members of our team. They work with your child to ease fears about surgery or a hospital stay. Learn what to expect if your child has surgery.
    • We care for children and teens all day, every day — not just once in a while. This means everyone on our team has the expertise to make a real difference for your child.

Contact Us

Contact the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at 206-987-2106 for an appointment, a second opinion or more information.

To make an appointment, you can call us directly or get a referral from your child’s primary care provider. We encourage you to coordinate with your pediatrician or family doctor when coming to Seattle Children’s.

Providers, see how to refer a patient (PDF).