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Types of colorectal cancer surgery

Your treatment plan for colon cancer or rectal cancer will probably include surgery. As you learn more about surgery, one of the most important questions you can ask your doctor is this one: What type of surgery is best for me? 
The three types of surgery are open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, and robotic surgery. Issues like recovery time, cost, and invasiveness vary with each type. Usually, more than one type of surgery can effectively treat colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor what type of surgery is best for you. 

Minimally invasive surgery

Laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery are both types of minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery limits the amount and size of cuts used during a procedure. Many studies have shown that patient recovery is faster and easier, and possibly even safer, with minimally invasive surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery is becoming more common. One reason is that patients recover faster after minimally invasive surgery than they do after open surgery. Patients who undergo laparoscopic surgery or robotic surgery feel more comfortable and spend less time in the hospital. 
Many colon cancer and rectal cancer patients are eligible for minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive techniques can be used to:
  • Remove part of the colon
  • Remove the entire colon
  • Create an ostomy
  • Reconnect and reconstruct the colon, or
  • Remove rectal tumors.
Surgeons often recommend laparoscopic or robotic procedures based on their own experience and preferences. It is important to ask them about their experience and review options together.
Read more here to learn about what might make minimally invasive surgery a good option for you: 

Video: The benefits of minimally invasive surgery with Dr. Craig

Having surgery for colorectal cancer used to mean large wounds and a long recovery. Now many patients have other options, according to Dr. Nicholas Craig. Learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. 

Video: A tale of two surgeries

Colorado resident Brittany Sliter's life was turned upside-down by a colon cancer diagnosis at age 23. Hear about her experiences with open and laparoscopic surgery.   

Surgical options that help you recover

Discussing your options for surgery can lead to faster and less painful recovery times. Laparoscopic surgery can have many advantages, including less bleeding, less pain, and less need for pain medication. Healing is often easier with minimally invasive surgeries because there are fewer infections and complications with the cuts (“incisions”) than with open surgery. Bowel functions are restored more quickly, which may mean leaving the hospital and getting back to normal sooner. For patients over 65, minimally invasive options can improve the chance of survival, and the surgery options are safe for all patients.

Learn more about minimally invasive surgery here.

What can you expect when you have a colectomy? 

A colectomy is the surgical procedure to remove all or part of your colon. Watch this video so you know what to expect. 

Need help finding a second opinion?

We recommend seeking as much advice from different doctors as possible before making a final decision about surgery and treatment options. Some doctors may not be comfortable performing minimally invasive surgery, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right procedure for you. Check out the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) database to find one of their member surgeons in your area.

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