Surgical procedures such as tumor resection and biopsy are still the gold standard for diagnosis and (determination of) treatment of solid tumors, and are prognostically beneficial for patients. However, growing evidence suggests that even a minor surgical trauma can influence several (patho) physiological processes that might promote postoperative metastatic spread and tumor recurrence. Local effects include tumor seeding and a wound healing response that can promote tumor cell migration, proliferation, differentiation, extracellular matrix remodeling, angiogenesis and extravasation. In addition, local and systemic immunosuppression impairs antitumor immunity and contributes to tumor cell survival. Surgical manipulation of the tumor can result in cancer cell release into the circulation, thus increasing the chance of tumor cell dissemination. To prevent these undesired effects of surgical interventions, therapeutic strategies targeting immune response exacerbation or alteration have been proposed. This review summarizes the current literature regarding these local, systemic and secondary site effects of surgical interventions on tumor progression and dissemination, and discusses studies that aimed to identify potential therapeutic approaches to prevent these effects in order to further increase the clinical benefit from surgical procedures.