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Colectomy for colorectal cancer

What is a colectomy?

A colon resection (also known as a colectomy) is an inpatient procedure in which the cancerous portion of the colon is removed. To ensure all of the cancerous tissue is removed, a small portion of healthy colon tissue adjacent to the cancerous tissue may also be removed. On average, one-fourth to one-third of the colon may be removed during a colectomy. The remaining portions of the colon are then connected.

Your surgical oncologist will also perform a procedure called a lymphadenectomy, in which he or she removes several nearby lymph nodes to properly stage the cancer and determine if the disease has spread. A pathologist, who is often present in the surgical suite, analyzes the lymph nodes under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer. He or she provides pathology results immediately so that your surgical oncologist can remove as much of the diseased tissue as possible during the surgery.

Laparoscopic colectomy

A colon resection can be done as a less invasive surgery (laparoscopic colectomy) or as a traditional open surgery, which requires your surgical oncologist to make a long incision in the abdomen to perform the surgery. With open surgery, patients typically need to stay in the hospital for a week or more and may have a longer period of recovery.

When possible, our surgical oncologists perform laparoscopic colectomies to remove the cancerous portion of the colon and nearby lymph nodes, and then reattach the healthy ends of the colon.

This newer way of performing colon resection surgery may allow for:

  • Less pain
  • A shorter stay in the hospital
  • A reduced recovery time
  • Less trauma to the body
  • Less scarring/better cosmetic appearance
  • Speedier return of bowel function

For the procedure, approximately four to five small incisions are made around the abdomen. Your surgical oncologist then inserts a laparoscope (a thin tube equipped with a tiny video camera), which enables him or her to see inside the abdomen on a nearby monitor. Your surgical oncologist then inserts surgical instruments through the incisions to perform the surgery.

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