Surgery to Treat Tumors
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, doctors may use chemotherapy or radiation therapy to shrink it before or after surgery.
The type of surgery your child needs depends on their tumor and how it affects them. Sometimes it is better not to do surgery. Our Cancer and Blood Disorders Center brings together surgeons and experts from many other fields. Together with you, we decide the best treatment plan for your child.
What's special about surgery at Seattle Children’s?
Doctors at other hospitals consult us and refer patients who may benefit from our expertise. Many families choose to have their surgeries here because of our team’s unique experience and skill. We welcome families seeking a second opinion. We will assess your child, recommend the best treatment for them and explain the reasons for our approach.
Expertise specific to your child’s tumor
Your child will receive care from a pediatric surgeon with expertise in their specific type of tumor. Our cancer team draws from many fields of medicine and surgery.
- Our pediatric surgeons have extra training in surgical oncology and are skilled at removing tumors in the chest, belly and pelvis. Our surgeons often do keyhole surgery using small cuts and advanced tools to reduce pain and speed healing. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is one of the ways we find out if cancer has spread, so we can plan the best treatment.
- Seattle Children’s has the region’s only pediatric and adolescent gynecologists. As much as possible, we use minimally invasive procedures and preserve our patients’ ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. Our fertility preservation program includes options for those who have not yet gone through puberty. We help with concerns related to contraception and menstruation during and after treatment.
- For safer, more effective surgery on tumors in the brain and spinal cord, our neurosurgeons use state-of-the-art neuronavigation and imaging tools to guide them in real time. Our advanced tools include laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) for laser ablation surgery and ROSA Brain to guide robot-assisted surgery.
- To care for children and teens with tumors that affect the eye, our team includes surgeons with special training to treat eye cancer (ocular oncology), vision problems from brain tumors (neuro-ophthalmology) and tumors in the region around the eye (pediatric oculoplastics). Seattle Children’s was one of the first hospitals in the country to treat retinoblastoma with high-dose chemotherapy delivered directly into the blood vessel that feeds the tumor. We have the region’s only pediatric oculoplastics specialist.
- In our Bone Cancer and Sarcoma Clinic, surgeons who specialize in bones, joints and muscles (orthopedic surgeons) work closely with experts in treating children with cancer (pediatric oncologists). We are skilled in rotationplasty and other limb-sparing reconstructive surgeries. Our growth-related care for children after complex surgery includes a “growing knee implant” that can be lengthened over time.
- Otolaryngology surgeons treat tumors in the head and neck, using microvascular surgery as needed. We have the only multidisciplinary program in the Pacific Northwest that specializes in children and teens with thyroid conditions, including tumors. Surgeons in our Cranial Base Program are skilled in operating on tumors in hard-to-reach areas of the head.
- Our urology surgeons are skilled in laparoscopic, endoscopic and robotic surgery and in reconstruction of the genitourinary tract. We treat children and teens with tumors in the bladder, urethra, ureters, testicles, scrotum, kidneys and prostate. Our fertility preservation options help protect our patients’ ability to have biological children.
The pediatric experts you need for the best result
- Each of our expert cancer surgeons is adept in state-of-the-art approaches to help diagnose and remove cancerous tumors in children, teens and young adults. Most of our surgeons who focus on cancer care have been board certified both in their surgical specialty and pediatric surgical subspecialty.
- Research shows that centers – like Seattle Children’s – that do many surgeries each year are more likely to have better results for their patients. More cases mean greater skill and a sharper ability to decide if surgery is even needed. That adds up to better outcomes.
- We are the only children’s hospital in our region accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC). We have met CoC’s stringent standards to provide high-quality, comprehensive cancer care for our patients.
- The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has verified Seattle Children’s as a Level I Children’s Surgery Center. We are the first children’s hospital in Washington to earn this status. It means we have met strict standards for staffing, training and the practices needed to provide proper care for our surgical patients. Read more.
- Meet your team.
Making surgery easier on your child
- We do more minimally invasive procedures on children for a broader range of conditions than any hospital in the region. After this type of surgery, your child is likely to heal faster with less pain and go home from the hospital sooner.
- Often we use image-guided biopsy to safely collect tissue from your child’s body. Seattle Children’s surgeons and interventional radiologists have special pediatric training and use equipment and techniques designed for children and teens.
- Easing your child's pain after surgery is critical to their healing. That’s why our large team of anesthesiologists have special training and work only with children and teens. We use pain medicines made just for them. We use regional anesthesia and options like acupuncture when those methods will help your child.
- Our pediatric registered dietitians get children ready for surgery and manage their nutritional needs after surgery.
- Our rehabilitation specialists help your child recover after surgery and improve their flexibility and mobility. Our physical therapists (PT) help build strength and coordination and reduce pain. Our occupational therapists (OTs) help your child learn to use equipment, a prosthesis or new ways to do tasks of daily life, if needed.
Experienced in treating the sickest children
- We care for children and teens all day, every day – not just once in a while. Everyone on our team has the training and skills to make a real difference for your child.
- After complex tumor surgery, children recover in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). They receive around-the-clock care from doctors and nurses who are certified in pediatric critical care medicine and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
- We have the only ECMO program in the region that can give children life-sustaining heart and lung support. Our Extracorporeal Life Support Program is nationally recognized.
- Our transport team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapistsare national leaders in safely moving very sick children by ground and air from other hospitals to Seattle Children’s.
- We offer the highest level of neonatal intensive care in Washington in our Level IV NICU.
- Radiation therapy before or after surgery improves outcomes for some types of tumors. Your child’s team works with Seattle Children’s radiation oncologists to decide if radiation may be helpful and what type to use. We are the only center in the region to offer proton therapy for children.
- Our team includes surgeons skilled in transplanting organs. Our liver transplant and kidney transplant programs are named Centers of Excellence by Optum’s Clinical Sciences Institute.
Research to advance care
- Seattle Children’s researchers helped create a way to light up cancer cells so surgeons can see and remove brain tumors with greater precision. Read about a clinical trial that aims to improve surgical outcomes for kids with brain tumors.
- Our experts help set the worldwide agenda for pediatric cancer research, as leaders in the Children's Oncology Group (COG). COG is the world’s largest consortium of childhood cancer specialists. Our surgeons who serve on COG committees include Dr. Kathleen Kieran, Dr. Kimberly Riehle, Dr. David Rothstein and Dr. Margarett Shnorhavorian.
- Our studies of new treatments increase your child’s options. These research studies are called clinical trials. As national leaders in pediatric cancer research, we can offer the very latest treatments being studied, such as phase 1 clinical trials. Often our doctors lead these studies.
If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider to refer you.
Providers, see how to refer a patient.
Scheduling an appointment
- How to schedule an appointment at Seattle Children’s.
- If you already have an appointment, learn more about how to prepare.
- Learn about resources such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.