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Exploratory surgery is a diagnostic method used by doctors when trying to find a diagnosis for an ailment. It can be performed in both humans and animals, but it is far more common in animals. It is used most commonly to diagnose or locate cancer in humans.
The use of new technologies such as MRIs have made exploratory surgeries less frequent.
Exploratory surgery and cancer
Sometimes, cancer is located in a place where standard tests cannot detect it. In this case, doctors must go into surgery and look for the cancerous mass manually. This procedure, which is what is commonly associated with exploratory surgery, is not used for treatment at all. Instead, it is used chiefly to identify the location of the tumor and the extent of its damage. If a tumor is found, a biopsy is performed and tests are run to see what type of cancer was found.
Exploratory surgery in animals
Because animals cannot voice their symptoms as easily as humans, exploratory surgery is more common in animals. Exploratory surgery is done when looking for a foreign body that may be lodged in the animal's body, when looking for cancer, or when looking for various other gastrointestinal problems. It is a fairly routine procedure that is done only after tests and bloodwork reveal nothing abnormal.