Colon cancer is one of the major causes of death from cancer in the U.S. It typically affects more men than women and approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. succumb to the disease each year. Therefore, if you are considering surgery to remove cancer in this region of the body, it’s imperative that you receive treatment as soon as possible.
With regards to the disease, there are a number of procedures that are used to remove the cancer. Two basic types of surgery are generally performed and include open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. The following information can give you an idea of the techniques and options that are available to you if you are considering this kind of surgery.
Before we review the two main types of surgery offered, it is good to understand a little about the colon and colon cancer itself. The colon is approximately six feet in length and is made up of a cecum, an ascending colon, a transverse colon, descending colon and sigmoid colon. The last portion of the large intestine is the rectum which measures about 10 inches long. The majority of adenocarcinomas or cancers of the colon are found in the lining of the walls of the colon or rectum.
Colon cancer is also known as colorectal cancer or rectal cancer. It develops when cell changes occur in the lining of the colon or rectum. In its early stages, the disease starts as an adenoma or polyp in the intestinal tract. This abnormal growth develops over time into cancer.
Therefore, when it reaches the cancerous stage, surgery is indicated to remove the cancer in that area of the digestive tract. This removal or surgical technique is generally called a colon resection. The surgery, on average, takes about three hours and the patient is put under a general anesthetic.
Before the surgery, the patient must undergo a number of tests to ascertain the general location of the diseased area. Also, many times, a procedure called a local excision is made. This procedure, which involves removing cancerous cells from the rectal area, is usually performed in order to determine pathology and find the extent of a cancer. By making a local excision, a doctor can consider which type of therapy or surgical procedures can best benefit the patient.
A colon operation can be also indicated when a patient is diagnosed with diverticulosis or diverticular disease. The diverticula are small sacs that develop in the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract). These sacs or pouches, when inflamed or infected, produce the condition of diverticulitis.
The digestive tract (GI tract) is made up of the mouth, esophagus, the stomach, small intestine and the large intestine. Diverticulosis can affect any part of the GI tract but primarily attacks the colon or large intestine in the majority of cases. A diet low in fiber as well as certain medications, such as corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can increase one’s chances for acquiring diverticular disease.
Colon resection is normally performed under a general anesthetic. When open surgery is performed, a catheter is generally inserted into the bladder in order to gauge urine output and to make certain that the patient has an adequate supply of water.
In this procedure, the diseased portion of the colon is located after an incision is made in the abdominal area. The diseased part is removed and the area may be sutured or surgically stapled. The time for the procedure is contingent on the spread of the disease but, in most cases, it takes about three hours to facilitate.
One of the new procedures of colon surgery is laparoscopic colon surgery. The reason this kind of procedure is well-regarded is the associated advantages. Usually the colon heals more quickly so the patient spends less time in the hospital. Also, there is less pain after the surgery and the patient can resume normal activities in a shorter span of time. In addition, the procedure leaves the patient with a less noticeable scar after surgery.
In this type of surgery, which takes about three hours, the surgeon will make about four small incisions. Using a diminutive type of telescope with a video camera or laparoscope, the surgeon inserts the equipment into one of the incisions so he can view the area while he uses instruments inserted in the other openings to extricate the cancerous growth and affix the open segments of the bowel. This is referred to as end-to-end anastomosis.
If the patient is diagnosed with rectal cancer, he can also be supplied with a colostomy in the interim as part of the healing process. In about 3 months’ time, the colostomy incision is closed which creates a stoma (or an opening which is bound to the intestines) on a side of the abdominal region. Waste matter goes through the stoma into a colostomy bag.
Whichever surgery you undergo, it’s vital to your health that you sit down with your surgeon and choose the best procedure to eliminate the disease immediately.