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Pediatric Cancer Surgery

Surgery is one of the cornerstones of cancer treatments. The goal of surgical oncology is to physically remove as much of the tumor as safely possible. At Children’s National Health System, our surgical oncologists have years of experience performing careful, precise surgery on children with a variety of cancers. 

Pediatric Cancer Surgery at Children’s National

Our pediatric surgeons perform a high volume of surgeries every year. This translates into a superior level of experience and expertise for our team. Features of our surgical oncology program include:

  • Advanced technology. We use the most sophisticated surgical technology, including intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Intraoperative MRI gives the surgical team detailed images of the procedure during the surgery itself. This way, we can ensure the success of the surgery before we finish.
  • Minimally invasive surgery. When appropriate, we can use a minimally invasive approach, leading to less pain and a shorter recovery. No matter what type of surgical approach we use, however, you can feel confident that our team has a high level of expertise and experience. We always have your child’s best outcome in mind.
  • Collaborative care. Our cancer surgeons don’t work in a vacuum. Your child’s entire team works together to manage his or her condition and discuss next treatment steps. For example, if your child is also undergoing chemotherapy, the medical oncologist and surgeon will coordinate care so your child receives the most comprehensive treatment possible.

Surgery to Diagnose Cancer

We may perform surgery during the diagnosis phase of your child’s care:

  • Surgery for diagnosis. A biopsy is a surgical procedure to confirm a diagnosis of cancer. We remove a small piece of the tumor and send it to our lab. There, expert pathologists with experience in childhood cancer analyze the tissue carefully to determine whether it is cancerous.
  • Staging. Sometimes, we may need to perform a procedure in order to stage the cancer. This allows us to determine how advanced the cancer is and if it has spread.

Surgery to Treat Cancer

Surgery is one of the primary treatments for cancer. We may use surgery in a number of different ways to treat your child’s cancer:

  • Primary treatment. Sometimes, surgery may be the only treatment your child needs. This usually depends on the location of the tumor, the type of cancer and whether it has spread. Your child’s doctor may determine, based on testing, that surgery can effectively remove the tumor.
  • Before or after other treatments. Your child’s doctor may decide that surgery itself will not be sufficient treatment. In this case, we may perform surgery before chemotherapy or radiation, in order to shrink or debulk the tumor. This will make the other treatments more effective. We may also perform surgery after chemotherapy or radiation, to remove any remaining cancer cells. 
  • Palliative surgery. We may use surgery to relieve symptoms and improve your child’s quality of life, even if the surgery cannot treat the cancer itself. If the tumor is pressing on a nerve or bone, causing pain, we can use surgery to relieve those symptoms. 

Contact Us

For more information, call us at 1-202-476-2151.

Applicable Conditions

Applicable Conditions

Bone Tumors

Children’s National Health System has a team of individuals who are highly skilled and experienced in the treatment of bone tumors, including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.


Leukemia is the most common form of pediatric cancer. It affects approximately 3,250 children each year in the US, accounting for about 30 percent of childhood cancers. It can occur at any age, although it is most commonly seen in children between 2 and 6 years of age.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer that grows in soft tissues that support and connect parts of the body.


Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous tumor that originates in the soft tissues of the body, including the muscles, tendons, and connective tissues.

Germ Cell Tumors

Germ cell tumors are malignant (cancerous) or nonmalignant (benign, noncancerous) tumors that are comprised mostly of germ cells.

Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

Our cancer team specializes in treating rare cancers like nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Learn more about its causes and treatments

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

NHL is cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections.

Brain Tumors

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children.


Pediatric neuroblastoma is a cancerous tumor that begins in nerve tissue of infants and very young children.

Children's Team

Children's Team


Jeffrey Dome

Jeffrey Dome

Vice President, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
Division Chief, Oncology
Associate Director, Center for Cancer and Immunology Research
Our Stories

Our Stories

Brayden S 3

Brayden's Story

From the outside, Brayden Schofield seems like a regular six-year-old boy who loves sharks, snakes, and playing with his little brother. But what most people don’t know is that Brayden’s life – and left arm – was saved by a rare bone tumor surgery performed by a team of doctors at Children’s National Health System.




Our oncology (cancer) team provides personalized treatment plans for children with cancer, including access to clinical trials.

Comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease Program

The Comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease Program at Children’s National is among the largest and most comprehensive pediatric sickle cell disease programs in the country.

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