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Colon Cancer (cont.)

Surgery

Surgery is the cornerstone of treatment for colon cancer.

  • You may need to have the entire colon removed or only part of your colon.

  • How much of your colon has to be removed depends on the location and particular characteristics of your tumor.

  • Sometimes only a polyp is cancerous, and removal of the polyp may be all that is necessary.

  • Surgery may also be done to relieve symptoms when the cancer has caused a bowel obstruction. The usual procedure is bypass for obstructions that cannot be cured.

Sometimes a colorectal tumor can be surgically removed only by creation of a permanent colostomy.

  • This is a small, neatly constructed opening in your belly. As part of the surgery, the colon that is left in your body is attached to this opening.

  • Fecal matter will exit your body through this hole instead of through your anus.

  • You will wear a small appliance or bag, which attaches to your skin around the opening and collects fecal matter. The bag is changed regularly to prevent skin irritation and odor.

  • Your surgeon will attempt to preserve your rectum and anus whenever possible. Several surgical procedures have been developed that can preserve evacuation of fecal material through the anus whenever possible.

Whether you need a colostomy depends on individual circumstances.

  • In general, tumors on the right side of your colon or on the left side above the level of the rectum may not call for colostomy.

  • Tumors in the rectum may require removal of the rectum and anal sphincter and construction of a permanent colostomy to divert your bowel.
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