Understanding Tumor Excision with Frozen Section

A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue in the body. Tumor excision is surgery to remove a tumor. Frozen section is a tool that can be used during surgery. It helps to determine how much of a tumor needs to be removed and that the margins are clear of dangerous cells.

Why tumor excision with frozen section is done

A tumor can be harmless (benign). Or it can be cancerous (malignant). To know whether a tumor is cancerous or not, you may need to have tissue removed during surgery and looked at in a lab. If the tumor is found to be cancerous, you may need a second surgery to remove more tissue. A frozen section helps a surgeon find out during surgery whether the tumor is cancerous. This way, the surgeon can know how much tissue to remove. Then a second surgery is not needed.

How tumor excision with frozen section is done

  • You are given anesthesia to make you drowsy or asleep and keep you from feeling pain.

  • The surgeon makes an incision over the area of the tumor so that the tumor is exposed.

  • The surgeon removes a sample of the tumor. This is called a biopsy.

  • The sample is given to a healthcare provider who specializes in looking at tissues (pathologist). The pathologist uses a special machine to freeze the sample quickly. The sample can then be cut into very thin slices and looked at under a microscope.

  • If another sample is needed, the surgeon may remove more of the tumor.

  • If the tumor is benign, no more of the tissue may need to be removed. The surgery may end there.

  • If the tumor is cancerous, it may be removed. To help ensure that all cancer is taken out, a certain amount of tissue around the tumor may also be removed.

The goal is for the pathologist to tell the surgeon whether the tumor is benign or cancerous during the surgery. In some cases, it may not be possible to find out whether cancer is present using frozen section. Instead, a different test may need to be done on the sample. This takes longer. Surgery will have to be ended. If the tumor is then found to be cancerous, a second surgery may need to be planned.

Risks of tumor excision with frozen section

  • Risks of anesthesia

  • General risks of surgery, including bleeding, infection, scarring, and pain

  • Need for a second surgery