Cancer Care

Colon Cancer Surgery

Colon cancer is most often treated with surgery. Your cancer doctor also may recommend chemotherapy and/or radiation.

What is colon cancer surgery?

There are different types of colon cancer surgery. The kind of surgery depends on the size and location of the cancer.  Types of surgery include:

  • Polypectomy: During a colonoscopy, your doctor removes polyps growing on the colon. A long thin tube with a small video camera is used. Your doctor does not need to cut into your abdomen to remove the polyps.

  • Local excision:  Cancer and some surrounding tissue of the intestine are removed.  This is done using a small tube inserted into the rectum.

  • Colectomy: Part or all of the colon is removed, along with the cancer.  Lymph nodes also may be removed. Colectomy is major surgery.  Sometimes if a part of the colon is removed the two ends of the colon are put back together (“anastomosis”); sometimes the end of the bowel is brought through the abdominal wall to create an ostomy where stool comes out.

  • Laparoscopic surgery:  A special camera is used to see inside the abdomen.  Rather than making large cuts, you doctor makes small incisions in the abdomen to guide the laparoscope. There is less pain post-surgery for the patient. Recovery times are shorter.

What to expect after colon cancer surgery

Patients may:

  • Require pain medication in the first few days after surgery.

  • Only be allowed liquids as recovery begins. Generally patients can start eating solid food in a few days after surgery.

  • Need additional surgery to remove scar tissue that may block the bowel.

People who’ve had colon cancer are at risk of developing other cancers in the future. These may include:

  • Rectal cancer

  • Stomach cancer

  • Small intestine cancer

  • Anal cancer

  • Bile duct cancer

  • Uterine cancer

  • Kidney cancer

Be sure to see your primary care provider regularly. The earlier that cancer is treated the greater the chance there is for a full recovery.

To lower your risk of future cancer, it is a good idea to have a healthy lifestyle that includes:

  • Avoiding smoking and other tobacco products

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Staying active

  • Eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables

  • Limiting alcohol use