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What are the Benefits of Using Laparoscopy to Find Cancer?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2016
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Laparoscopy uses a small tube inserted in the abdomen, called a laparoscope, that can visualize the abdominal cavity or pelvis even more accurately than a computerized axial tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound. The procedure is more invasive than CT scans or ultrasounds, but it is also more definitive, and can find smaller tumors, which may change the course of proposed cancer treatment. Laparoscopy tends to be performed after CT scans or ultrasounds have indicated cancer in the abdominal or pelvic regions. It can direct surgeons to removing more, if not all, of the cancerous tissue.

Laparoscopy after a suspected diagnosis of cancer is quite routine. It is more invasive than other means of identifying cancer. One will usually have a small incision in the abdomen, undergo anesthesia, and feel tired and uncomfortable for a few days following laparoscopy. However, the procedure itself is considered outpatient, with most people leaving the hospital or surgical center a few hours after they have recovered from anesthesia.

One is not, however, prepared to drive after the procedure. Those undergoing laparoscopy should have someone with them who can drive them home. It is also wise to have someone who can help for at least the day of the procedure after one has arrived at home.

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The reason laparoscopy is routine is that surgical removal of cancerous cells should aim for total removal of all malignant cells. If a surgeon misses a tumor not visualized on a CT scan, then recovery from cancer can be either delayed or more problematic.

Additionally, a collection of cancerous cells that is not removed may mean further surgeries. Such surgeries may have to take place when one is already in a weakened state from cancer treatments. Thus, removing the most cancer cells in a first surgery is well worth undergoing a laparoscopy.

Evaluating cancer cells through laparoscopy can also help to determine the degree to which cancer has progressed or metastasized. This can help the physician offer the best treatment possible given the nature of the cancer. As well, physicians may be able to give more clearly defined answers about a patient’s prognosis.

Laparoscopy is also preferable to undergoing the more extensive exploratory surgery of the abdomen, since it uses a tiny incision. Exploratory surgery will almost always mean one has to stay in the hospital for at least a few days. In some cases, doctors may also employ microlaparoscopy, which uses an even tinier access, but reveals similar pictures of organs in the abdominal cavity. Microlaparoscopy may ultimately replace regular laparoscopy, since it means even less recovery time for the patient.

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