Surgery to remove cancer is almost always the
main treatment for
colorectal cancer. The type of surgery depends on the
size and location of your cancer.
Side effects are common after
surgery. You may be able to reduce the severity of your side effects at home.
For more information, see the Home Treatment section of this topic.
- Local excision. When colorectal cancer is
discovered in its very early stages, it can be removed during a
colonoscopy. The surgeon cuts out not just the polyp,
but also a small amount of tissue around it. The surgeon does not need to cut
into the abdomen.
- Bowel resection. This operation
involves cutting out the cancer as well as the sections of the colon or rectum
that are next to it. Then the two healthy ends of the colon or rectum are sewn
back together. The surgery can be done in two ways:
- Open resection. The surgeon makes a long
incision in the abdomen, completes the bowel resection, and closes the
incision. Open resection is the best option for cancer of the rectum.9
- Laparoscopic surgery. Instead of
needing a large incision in the abdomen, laparoscopic surgery requires only 3
to 6 small incisions. The surgeon inserts a camera, or laparoscope, and other
operating instruments through these incisions to perform the operation. Because
the incisions are smaller, there usually is less pain and recovery is faster.
In some cases, the surgeon may make 1 or 2 of the incisions a little bigger
during surgery in order to complete the procedure, but the opening is still far
smaller than in an open resection. Open resection is best for cancer of the
rectum, but for other colon cancers, laparoscopic surgery is equally
effective.9 But laparoscopic surgery cannot always be
done, such as when the cancer has spread to areas outside the colon.
What To Think About
Polypectomy or local excision is
used when the cancer has been caught in its early stages. Bowel resection is
used when the cancer is larger. Sometimes after this major operation, the two
ends of the colon or rectum cannot be sewn back together. When this happens, a
colostomy is performed. Most people do not need a
For more information, see:
- Bowel disease: Caring for your ostomy.
Colorectal cancer comes back after surgery in about half
of people who have surgery to remove the cancer.7 The
cancer may be more likely to come back after surgery if it was not discovered
in an early stage. Even if your doctor thinks that all the cancer has been
removed during surgery,
radiation therapy or
chemotherapy may be recommended to destroy any
remaining microscopic areas of cancer.
Clinical trials are
designed to find better ways to treat people with cancer and are based on the
most current information. Some people who meet the criteria for participation
choose to enroll in such clinical trials.
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