Solid Tumor Surgery

Surgery

St. Jude surgeons specialize in treating solid tumors that can occur in the muscles, bones and organs. Our surgeons helped develop delicate techniques that remove these types of solid tumors without damaging important body functions.

Learn more about how we treat the following cancers:

  1. Learn about retinoblastoma >

    Vision-sparing surgery

    St. Jude has one of the most recognized treatment teams in the country for retinoblastoma, the most common childhood eye cancer. We work with St. Jude scientists to develop new, less-toxic treatments and surgeries for retinoblastoma. These techniques include laser and cryotherapy. Our retinoblastoma team works to preserve children’s eyes and vision, as well as their lives.

    What to Know

    When your child comes to St. Jude for retinoblastoma treatment, the pathologist reviews a sample of your child’s cancer taken during surgery. There is no long wait to find out the results. The pathologist, surgeon and oncologist (cancer doctor) discuss your child’s tumor right away and decide if more surgery is needed.

    If we see that the tumor is cancerous, treatment will begin right away. Your child’s treatment will depend on the tumor’s type, size and location. Most tumors are treated with a laser or by freezing. Freezing is also known as cryotherapy.

    Throughout treatment, your child will be seen every few weeks by a St. Jude ophthalmologist and oncologist. Your child may need to continue to see a local ophthalmologist once a year but will also visit St. Jude for regular checkups.

    Retinoblastoma: St. Jude treatment team helps preserve vision for kids with eye cancer

    Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer of the retina usually diagnosed before a child is three years old. The first noticeable sign is often a cloudy white pupil—a white-eye in a photo, rather than the normal red-eye effect. At St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, scientists, oncologists and surgeons collaborate to continuously develop new, less-toxic treatments and surgeries for these young patients. These techniques often include laser therapy and cryotherapy. Follow patients' journeys from diagnosis to treatment, and learn about the impact of translational research on this eye tumor.

  2. Learn about osteosarcoma >

    Learn about Ewing sarcoma >

    Limb-sparing surgery

    For 30 years, St. Jude has saved the lives and limbs of children with common bone cancers like osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Today, about 90%-95% of our patients with bone tumors have some type of limb-sparing procedure. This allows us to remove tumors without harming nearby nerves, blood vessels and organs.

    What to Know

    Most children with bone cancer will have surgery. Our surgeons will remove part of the tumor to learn what kind of cancer it is. This is called a biopsy. After chemotherapy treatment, we will remove as much of the tumor as possible.

    Our surgeons are skilled in limb-sparing techniques, including bone grafts and implants. One type of implant is known as a prosthesis. Our surgeons may implant a prosthesis to replace all or part of a bone in an arm or leg. We specialize in newer, expandable prostheses designed for growing children. These implants are lengthened periodically as children age. We will work with you and your child’s full medical team to decide what type of surgery is best for your child.

    At St. Jude, we follow our patients closely. If the cancer returns, we can find it as early as possible. This may reduce the need for another surgery. In some cases, your child may need reconstructive surgery after a tumor is removed. Our team includes world-renowned plastic surgeons who focus on treating children.

    We also provide extensive rehabilitation and supportive care to your child after surgery. By offering long-term, follow-up care, we can help your child survive and thrive years after a cancer diagnosis.

  3. Learn about neuroblastoma >

    Surgery for complex solid tumors

    Neuroblastoma is a cancer that affects the nerve tissue. Studies have shown that surgery alone may be a good treatment option for children with low-risk neuroblastoma. A combination of surgery and other therapy may be needed for children whose disease has progressed or is likely to come back after surgery. We use special procedures to remove the neuroblastoma tumors without damaging other organs. We also research new methods of treating specific types of neuroblastoma. These include therapies that help the body’s immune system learn to fight off the cancer.

    What to Know

    About 7%-10% of all childhood cancers in the United States are neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is located in critical areas of the body. This type of cancer generally begins in the adrenal glands, found on top of the kidneys. It can also occur in the spinal cord, chest, abdomen and neck.

    Our surgeons remove part of the tumor to learn what kind of cancer it is. This is called a biopsy. We remove as much of the tumor as possible. During surgery, our experienced surgeons carefully separate the tumor from delicate blood vessels and vital organs. Our surgeons are also skilled in complex cases where the cancer has spread to the liver.

  4. Learn about Wilms tumor >

    Kidney-sparing surgery

    Wilms tumor, also known as nephroblastoma, is a type of kidney cancer in children. When it is in both kidneys, it is called bilateral Wilms tumor. Almost all childhood kidney tumors are Wilms tumors. Our surgeons delicately remove this tumor while preserving as much kidney function as possible.

    What to Know

    Surgery plays a critical role in Wilms tumor treatment. Our No. 1 goal is always to cure, but saving kidney function is also important.

    In bilateral Wilms tumor, other surgeons may treat the cancer by removing both kidneys. This is called a nephrectomy. At St. Jude, we use a technique called nephron-sparing surgery to remove the tumor and leave as much kidney function as possible.

    Ruthie's Story: Bilateral Wilms Tumor

    Doctors diagnosed Ruthie with bilateral Wilms tumor at 8 months old. Faced with the prospect of their child losing both kidneys, possible transplant and dialysis, Ruthie’s parents searched for surgical services that offered experience and expertise. Luckily for Ruthie, they found St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Children with solid tumors may be eligible to come to St. Jude for surgery only, even if they are receiving most of their treatment at another facility. Families and referring physicians may contact the Department of Surgery at 901-595-4060 to request an evaluation.

What To Expect

Surgery is vital part of the treatment plan for most children with solid tumors. It usually begins with a biopsy that allows doctors to get a sample of the tumor tissue. Depending on the type of cancer and how far the disease has spread, your child may need chemotherapy, radiation or surgery to remove all or as much of the tumor as possible. We work closely with you and other members of your child’s medical team to develop the best plan for your child.

Before surgery, you and your child will visit the Surgery Clinic or someone from the clinic will visit your child in the hospital room. Depending on the surgery your child will have, he or she may go to one of these clinics:

  • Eye Clinic, which includes:
    • Eye Tumor Clinic for patients with cancers in or around the eye
    • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Clinic to help with the way eyes function and look
    • Ocular Immunology Clinic to treat eye infections and for patients just completing a stem cell transplant
    • Ocular Development and Pediatric-Neuro Eye Clinic to help patients whose disease or treatment has changed their vision or eye movement
  • Dental Clinic
  • Ortho Clinic 
  • Limb-Sparing Clinic 
  • AVN (Avascular Necrosis) Clinic
  • Otolaryngology (ENT) Clinic
  • General Surgery Clinic

Immediately after surgery, your child may go to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to be monitored. You will have a room attached to the ICU so you can also be close to your child during recovery.

Once your child has been discharged from the hospital, you will have access to a wide support system that includes a full range of occupational, physical and speech therapy. Experts also provide nutritional and behavioral health counseling as well as dental services to help with any treatment-related conditions that may arise.

Refer a Solid Tumor Patient