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What is Colorectal Cancer Surgery?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Colorectal cancer surgery is a treatment for colorectal cancer. For most people, this treatment involves the surgical removal of a section of the colon, followed by several sessions of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Surgery is the principal treatment given for both colon and rectal cancers. The types of surgery used are different, however. There are multiple types of colorectal cancer surgery, differentiated by the amount of colon or rectum removed and whether any other nearby tissue also is removed.

The main type of colorectal cancer surgery used to treat colon cancer is called a segmental resection, or a colectomy. In this surgical procedure, one or more segments of the colon are removed. This generally involves the removal of the cancerous piece of colon as well as a small amount of healthy tissue on either side. The two ends of the colon are then stitched together.

This procedure is usually carried out using a technique called laparoscopy. In this procedure, the surgeon makes several small abdominal incisions, through which surgical instruments, a fiber optic video camera and a light source are inserted. The video camera transmits images to an external monitor, allowing the surgeon to view what he or she is doing without having to make a large incision in the abdomen. This method of carrying out the surgery is just as effective for removing the cancer as open surgery, with the advantage of a faster recovery time for the patient.

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There are several types of colorectal cancer surgery that can be used to remove a tumor located in the rectum. The type of surgery used typically depends on the stage of the cancer and the location in which the tumor is situated. One of the simplest and least invasive procedures is called local transanal resection. This method involves the use of surgical instruments inserted into the anus and is used to remove small tumors that are located close to the opening of the anus.

Other types of surgery for rectal cancer include lower anterior resection, abdominoperineal resection, pelvic exenteration and proctectomy. The lower anterior resection procedure is used mainly for tumors located in the region of the rectum that lies closest to the colon, and it involves an abdominal incision. In a proctectomy, the rectum and part of the colon are removed because of the presence of advanced tumors. The patient is fitted with a temporary colostomy, which is removed after the colon has healed.

In abdominoperineal resection, incisions are made in the abdomen and near the anus, and the anus is removed. This requires that a colostomy be fitted, in order to allow for the removal of solid waste. The most extensive rectal surgery is the pelvic exenteration, which involves the removal of the uterus or prostate, the rectum and certain other organs, which might include the bladder and the uterus or prostate.

Colorectal cancer surgery has certain risks and potential side effects. Risks include organ damage, bleeding, blood clots and wound infection or poor wound healing. One of the specific risks of this type of surgery is that the stitched ends of intestine might detach. This leads to infection and the eventual development of scar tissue that can block the bowel. For men, there is a risk that colorectal cancer surgery might lead to a reduction or loss of sexual function, and women occasionally find that scar tissue can cause pain during sexual intercourse.

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