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What should I know before surgery?

It’s hard to know what questions to ask your doctor. Here is some information to help you work with your doctor to make the best healthcare decisions to treat your colorectal cancer. 

What is minimally invasive surgery?

Surgery for colorectal cancer is when a surgeon removes the diseased portion of your colon and/or rectum. 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 are 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: 

What is open surgery?

With open surgery, the surgeon makes a large cut into the abdomen to remove the tumor and part of the healthy colon or rectum. The surgeon will remove the part of the colon or rectum with the tumor and the attached lymph nodes. The surgeon will check other segments of the colon and nearby organs to see if the cancer has spread. The large incisions affect recovery time. 

Four common types are: 

  • Right hemicolectomy
  • Sigmoid colectomy
  • Left hemicolectomy
  • Low anterior resection (LAR)

Open surgery might still be recommended for patients with:

  • Spread of cancer
  • Metastases (additional growths)
  • Need to remove the tumor completely
  • History of medical conditions
  • Higher Body Mass Index (BMI) or obesity

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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