Expert Highlights Importance of Palliative Care in Surgical Oncology


Sean Dineen, MD, highlights the removal of abdominal wall lesions and other surgical strategies that may help manage symptoms in patients with cancer.

Palliative care may represent an important aspect of many surgical oncologists’ practices for patients with cancer, said Sean Dineen, MD.

In a conversation with CancerNetwork®, Dineen, an associate member in the Gastrointestinal Department, section leader for Peritoneal Disease, and the program director for the Complex General Surgical Oncology Fellowship at Moffitt Cancer Center, spoke about findings from a presentation he gave at the 2024 Society of Surgical Oncology Annual Meeting (SSO). In his session, he emphasized the use of palliative care in surgery to manage symptoms in patients.

During the presentation, Dineen tried to raise awareness of palliative care’s utility in this setting by describing examples from his practice. One procedure he highlighted involved removing symptomatic abdominal wall lesions to help alleviate pain.


The theme of the session overall was to try to help surgical oncologists understand what their role was, as surgeons, in the treatment of patients with advanced cancer and, in some instances, potentially at the end of life. The first session talked a little bit more about how to incorporate palliative care or supportive care into your practice. In my session, the talk that I gave was more focused specifically on how to use surgery and how to design, plan, and talk about operations that were intended to treat symptoms. That was the focus of what my talk was on: indications in which surgery may be beneficial to treat symptoms, even if it’s not necessarily intended to prolong survival.

There were a few take-home points. The first was to raise awareness of how important it is for surgical oncologists to understand palliative care and to understand the scope that it may play in their practice. In some reports, up to 40% of consults may be related to some form of symptom control or palliative-intent surgery. It could represent quite a big part of most surgical oncologists’ or many surgical oncologists’ practice. That was an important message for us to get across. The second was just some specific instances where surgery may be quite helpful at relieving symptoms. I gave examples from my practice of abdominal wall lesions that are symptomatic and can be painful that we will remove, as well as some adnexal or ovarian tumors that can become quite large and lead to bowel obstruction. Those were a couple of examples where we talked a little bit more specifically about the operation and what to expect from that.


Dineen S. The role of the surgeon in palliating cancer patients. Presented at the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) 2024 Annual Meeting; March 20-23, 2024; Atlanta, GA.

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