Surgical Oncologists are with cancer patients during and after treatment

Updated: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:00 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Dr. Sanjoy Saha is a general surgical oncologist with Marshfield Medical Center in Eau Claire.

He describes his role as a surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers.

“Surgeons job is to figure out what type of cancer it is, what stage it is, and then what treatment should be rendered,” Dr. Saha said.

He says choosing this field of medicine can add two to four years of extra training.

“That is a combination of basic science research, patient care, some innovative techniques, advanced cancer operations, and diagnosis prevention,” Dr. Saha said.

Dr. Saha says a surgical oncologist’s role encompasses complete care of cancers, which he says are divided into two broad groups.

“Hematologic malignancies which are related to the blood disorders like leukemia and lymphoma, and others are the solid organ tumors like cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, stomach, and other areas of the body,” Dr. Saha said.

Adding surgical oncologists look at the process of the cancer a patient has as a whole, even its biology.

“He understands what is a disease process, what type of operation to be done when it’s to be done, and what should be the extent of the operation, whether it is the curative intent or whether to retaliative intent,” Dr. Saha said.

Including a surgical oncologist, Dr. Saha says a cancer patient’s care team consists of other experts as well.

“A surgeon and medical oncology, radiation oncology, and sometimes interventional radiologist. So it’s a multidisciplinary approach,” Dr. Saha said.

Another aspect specialists like Dr. Saha look at is a cancer patient’s family history.

“There are certain cancers which are familial,” Dr. Saha said. “Whether the patient’s children or siblings or parents or other close family relatives, whether they need any investigation or not to figure them out and advise them also.”

Depending on the cancer, Dr. Saha says a surgical oncologist’s job doesn’t stop when the cancer has been cleared.

“The patient is followed every 3 to 4 months for two years. Then after that, if everything remains fine, you follow them every six months for another two years, and then every year for the next few years,” Dr. Saha said. “Nowadays the recommendations are that you follow them at least for 5 to 6 years.”

Dr. Saha stresses the importance of preventative screenings.

“Prevention is the key,” Dr. Saha said. “If you catch the cancer in the early stages, you can cure it.”

As well as living a healthy lifestyle.

“You should be careful about what you eat, the importance of exercise, maintaining your body weight,” Dr. Saha said.