St. Jude surgeons and the clinical teams that support them put the care of your child above all else. Our surgeons treat children with cancer all day, every day. When it comes to performing complex surgeries and treating rare forms of childhood solid tumors, experience matters.
Our surgeons perform hundreds of operations each year, including:
As the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children, our approach to surgically treating cancers of the bones, eyes, kidneys and soft tissue provide children with the best chance at cure while preserving as much of their normal function as possible.
For 30 years, St. Jude has saved the lives and limbs of children with common bone cancers like osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Today, approximately 90%-95% of St. Jude patients with bone tumors have some type of limb salvage procedure.
One in 10 children require follow-up surgery to treat Ewing sarcoma that has returned after treatment. Thanks to exceptional follow-up care for patients who undergo surgery for Ewing sarcoma, the percentage of St. Jude patients who require a second surgery falls below the national average.
At St. Jude, children undergo extensive rehabilitation and supportive care to help them maintain normal function. By offering long-term, follow-up care as children continue to grow—including a lifetime of screenings and health assessments related to their cancer—St. Jude helps children survive and thrive years after their cancer diagnosis.
St. Jude has one of the most recognized retinoblastoma treatment teams in the country. Scientists and surgeons collaborate to continuously develop new, less-toxic treatments and surgeries to target retinoblastoma. These techniques include laser and cryotherapy.
Every child treated for retinoblastoma also benefits from follow-up service from our Eye Clinic, and unmatched long-term follow up care and support for survivors. Our retinoblastoma team works to preserve children’s eyes and vision, as well as their lives.
Cancer in both kidneys, also known as bilateral Wilms tumor, occurs in only 30 U.S. children each year. Nearly 10% of those children have their surgery done at St. Jude.
Our surgeons are leading experts in treating this rare form of cancer in children. The No. 1 goal is always cure, but saving kidney function is also important. Using a type of surgery known as nephron-sparing surgery, St. Jude surgeons carefully remove the tumor from both kidneys and leave as much healthy tissue as possible. By performing this highly specialized type of surgery, St. Jude surgeons both treat the tumor and improve quality of life by helping children avoid kidney failure, dialysis and transplantation.
St. Jude Surgery chair Andrew Davidoff, MD, has performed more than 50 bilateral Wilms tumor surgeries to date. He publishes the results of his work in top research journals so other doctors can learn how to help their patients survive and thrive.
By the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, cancer has usually spread to other parts of the body. Treating children with neuroblastoma tumors requires precision, patience and skilled hands.
To treat neuroblastomas, St. Jude surgeons meticulously separate the tumor from delicate blood vessels that nourish the child’s kidneys, liver, intestines and other vital organs. Surgical expertise is critical to prevent damage to vital organs affected by the neuroblastoma’s growth.
Neuroblastoma accounts for 7%-10% of all childhood cancers in the United States.
Minimally invasive surgeries may be relatively new to pediatric oncology, but St. Jude surgeons have worked long and hard to perfect the techniques. Between 1994 and 2004, 93% of St. Jude patients received accurate diagnoses solely from minimally invasive surgeries.
During minimally invasive surgery, surgeons use small incisions to diagnose and treat tumors. This offers children surgical options with less pain, fewer long-term complications and quicker recoveries.
60 surgeons in 9 specialties
At St. Jude, the same surgeon will lead your child’s surgical treatment from the day your child arrives to the day he or she goes home. It’s important to us that you know your surgeons and care team members. It’s important to your child’s treatment to have a team who knows your family and your child.
If St. Jude admits your child for surgery, your child will be matched with one or more of the 60 surgeons at St. Jude from 9 divisions.
- General Pediatric Surgery Division—General surgeons at St. Jude remove solid tumors. These expert doctors also focus on research and education. They have found new ways to do surgery that make smaller or fewer cuts, so your child can heal faster and with less pain. This is called minimally invasive surgery.
- Orthopedic Division—Orthopedic surgeons remove solid tumors, mostly from long bones in a child’s arm or leg. St. Jude pediatric orthopedic surgeons have special expertise in saving as much of your child’s limb as possible. That technique is called limb-sparing surgery.
- Ophthalmology Division—These surgeons treat eye cancers, as well as sight problems related to cancer or therapy. St. Jude surgeons use special technology to help save your child’s vision whenever possible.
- Neurosurgery Division—Neurosurgeons remove brain tumors. St. Jude partners with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital to form one of the largest brain cancer programs in the United States.
- Otolaryngology (ENT) Division. These are surgeons that operate on the head, neck or ear.
- Urology Division. Our urology surgeons treat side effects related to cancer treatment and bone marrow transplantation. These side effects often include infections and inflammation in the urinary system (kidneys, bladder and the tubes connected to these organs).
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Division. Surgeons in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Division repair, replace or restore function and normal appearance of bones, muscles, skin and other parts of your child’s body affected by cancer or its treatment.
- Dentistry Division—Dental surgeons make sure teeth are healthy enough for surgery. They also treat any problems or side effects from cancer treatment.
- GYN Division—This division includes gynecologists and experts in reproductive endocrinology. They treat girls and young women for problems or side effects related to a disease process or its treatment. Examples of such side effects include delayed or interrupted puberty, irregular periods and problems with ovaries.
Collaboration: your child’s team of cancer experts
St. Jude surgeons treating your child are part of a team of experts dedicated to your child’s specific care and treatment needs. This team includes as many experts as your child needs. Team members might include:
- Anesthesiologists — keep patients asleep during surgery
- Basic scientists — research specific cancers in the laboratory so we can continue to learn more about what causes cancer and then determine the best ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.
- Bone marrow transplant expert — provide for information about stem cell transplantation, another type of cancer treatment that is sometimes used along with surgery to treat children with cancer
- Geneticists — experts who study how cancer is inherited (passed down in families)
- Medical oncologist — a doctor who is an expert in using chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancer
- Pediatric oncology nurses — nurses specially trained to care for children with cancer
- Pathologists — experts trained to look at small samples of blood or tissue to spot cancer cells or other problems
- Radiation oncologists — doctors who specialize in using radiation therapy to treat cancer
- Social workers — help with supportive care for children and their families, including ways to deal with the stress of treatment, or counseling for your family.
State-of-the-art operating rooms
In February 2015, St. Jude opened the Kay Research and Care Center, which houses the Eric Trump Foundation Surgery and ICU Center. St. Jude also partners with Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. These state-of-the-art operating rooms give your care team the best possible technology to treat your child. The new area features:
- An Intensive Care Unit (ICU) next to the surgical center so doctors can move critical patients immediately to an operating room (OR).
- Room connected with the ICU.
- Modular, joined operating rooms let the surgeon see and talk with specialists like pathologists or radiologists. The surgeon has a monitor to see things such as your child’s most recent MRI or the slide the pathologist is looking at under the microscope.
- The pathologist, too, has a monitor to see the surgery as it occurs.
- Air-filtration technology keeps a germ-free environment in the ICU.
As technology advances, there is space to accommodate it. The modular design makes it easy to rearrange ORs when needed to provide the best possible care.
In the integrated OR, your child’s cancer team can have direct, real-time interaction. That increases efficiency and patient safety. It also helps lead to the best outcomes possible.
Removing solid tumors and saving healthy tissue
St Jude surgeons are leaders in cancer treatment research. They’ve found new ways to remove tumors with the fewest negative effects for your child.
For instance, they are pioneers in limb-sparing surgical techniques. These methods help prevent amputation and can even encourage the affected limb to grow as it would normally.
St. Jude surgeons also discovered better ways to treat children with Wilms tumor. This type of cancer can occur in one or both kidneys. The doctors use techniques that allow them to take out the tumor without having to remove a child’s kidney. This is called nephron-sparing surgery.
Groundbreaking progress in treating brain tumors
St. Jude partners with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital to form one of the nation’s largest surgical brain tumor programs. This is the only program devoted to children with brain tumors.
Staff from both St. Jude and Le Bonheur makes up the multidisciplinary teams that provide care. For instance, pediatric neurosurgeons from Le Bonheur may work with neuro- and radiation oncologists from St. Jude.
World leaders in surgical research and training
St. Jude is an educational hub for cancer surgery in children. Staff from St. Jude teach locally, nationally and internationally.
St. Jude surgeons help create research protocols that guide each step of a clinical trial.
Nearly all new pediatric surgeons in the U.S. and Canada spend some time training at St. Jude. Surgeons and fellows from around the globe learn the latest techniques in our high-tech observation rooms or from the videos recorded in the operating room. These are just a few ways that St. Jude helps improve cancer care for children worldwide.