Colon Cancer Surgery

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine or colon. It usually begins as small, noncancerous clumps of cells called polyps that form in the inside of the colon. These noncancerous polyps can become cancerous over time, becoming colon cancer.

Surgery is often the major treatment option for early-stage colon cancers. The type of surgery that will be performed depends on the stage of colon cancer and the goal of the surgery.

Different Types of Colon & Rectal Surgery

There are different types of colon cancer surgeries that can be performed at different stages of the colon cancer.

Patients that have been diagnosed with colon cancer may under tests to determine the stage of the cancer. The stage of the cancer will determine the most appropriate type of surgery that will be performed.

The tests that may be performed include imaging procedures such as abdominal, pelvic, and chest CT scans.

The stages of colon cancer range from stage 0 to IV. The first stage or the early stage indicates that the cancer is limited to the lining of the inside of the colon. Cancer will continue to advance through the other stages until they attains the most advanced stage which is stage IV. At this stage, cancer has spread to other areas of the body and becomes more difficult to curtail.

Surgery for early-stage colon cancer

If your colon cancer is at its early stage, minimally invasive surgeries are commonly recommended. Minimally invasive surgical procedures for early-stage colon cancer include:

Removing polyps during a colonoscopy (polypectomy)

At the very early stage, your cancer is usually small, localized, and completely contained within a polyp. Your doctor or surgeon may be able to completely remove the cancerous polyp during a colonoscopy. This procedure is known as polypectomy.

Endoscopic Mucosal Resection

This procedure involves the removal of larger polyps during colonoscopy and also a small amount of the inner lining of the colon.

Laparoscopic Colon Resection

Laparoscopic colon resection is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to view the inside of the colon and also remove the cancerous part of the colon. During a laparoscopic colon resection, a laparoscope (a tiny flexible tube connected to a video camera) is passed through small incisions made on your abdomen. Your surgeon views your colon on a monitor screen. Your surgeon also places instruments inside your abdomen to cut away the cancerous part of your colon.

Laparoscopic colon resection uses this minimal-invasive approach for removing cancerous tissue in your colon and lymph nodes.

Surgery for more advanced colon cancer

At stage II and III, cancer has grown into or through your colon. The surgical procedures that you may need to undergo at these stages include:

Partial colectomy

This surgery involves the removal of the part of your colon that contains cancer along with a small portion of normal tissue on either side of the cancerous colon. When the part of the colon that contains the cancer is removed, the healthy parts of your colon or rectum are reattached.

Total colectomy

This surgery involves the total removal of the entire colon. Total colectomy is rarely required for colon cancer treatment. It may be required in certain cases such as if there’s another problem in the part of the colon without cancer, like hundreds of polyps in individuals with familial adenomatous polyposis, or inflammatory bowel disease.


This is a surgery that may be done when it is impossible to reconnect the healthy parts of your colon or when your entire colon is removed. This surgery is done to create a way for waste to leave your body. This surgery involves creating an opening in the wall of your abdomen for the evacuation of stool into a bag that is fitted securely over the opening created in the wall of your abdomen.

This procedure may be performed temporarily to allow your colon or rectum heals after a partial colectomy. In rare cases, it may be permanent.

If the colon is blocked

The cancer can block your colon. This usually happens slowly over time. When this happens, a stent may be placed in the colon before surgery is done.

A stent is a hollow expandable metal tube that is placed inside the colon to keep the colon open. The stent is placed through a small opening using a colonoscope.

In rare cases whereby the stent can’t be placed or if cancer has caused a hole in your colon, surgery may be required immediately.

A partial or total colectomy may be required to remove the part of the colon with cancer or the entire colon.

How long does it take to recover from colon surgery?

It takes up to 4 weeks to fully recover from colon surgery. You will likely feel better after 2 to 3 weeks of your surgery. Your bowel movements may not be regular for several weeks and you may have to adjust your diets until you fully recover.

Is a colon resection a major surgery?

Yes, colon resection is a major surgery. It is the surgical removal of parts or all of your colon. It could take up to 4 hours for the surgery to be completed.

How dangerous is colon surgery?

Colon surgery carries some risks and complications just like every other invasive surgery. Risks and complications can be greatly minimized if the surgery is done by a board-certified highly specialized surgeon. The risks and complications that could occur during and after a colon surgery include:

  • Leakage between the sections of your colon that were attached together
  • Bleeding in your intestines
  • Breaking open of the incisions
  • Infection
  • Injury or damage to your bladder, ureter, or blood vessels
  • Incision hernia (When your intestines push through the incision into your belly)
  • Scar tissue that forms an intestinal blockage

The mortality rate of colon cancer surgery is 2% to 6% depending on the stage of the colon cancer.

Can you live a normal life without a colon?

People can live a normal life without a colon. However, they will likely need to wear a bag outside their body for the evacuation of stool. A surgical procedure known as colostomy will be performed to create an opening in the abdominal wall to collect stool.

An alternative surgery may also be performed to create a pouch in the small intestine that replaces the colon. In this case, a colostomy is not necessary.

What foods should you avoid after colon surgery?

The foods that you should avoid include nuts, seeds, chunky peanut butter, tough meats, undercooked meats, uncooked fish, fried foods, fast foods, beans, peas, hot dogs, sausage, strong flavored cheeses, coconut, raisins, and desserts with nuts or raisins.

What happens after colon surgery?

After colon surgery, you will feel some level of pain. You may need to take pain medicines for a few days to relieve the pain. You may not be able to eat solid foods for the first few weeks. You may only be allowed to drink certain types of liquids for the first week. You may gradually change your diets from liquids to semi-solids, and then to solids, as you recover. You may only be allowed to eat solid foods in the 4th week after your surgery. During this time, you must have recovered fully.

Colon Cancer Surgery

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