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Surgery to treat bowel cancer

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 tumour. 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.

Rather than making long incisions common in traditional "open" surgery, laparoscopic surgery requires only small incisions to perform the operation.


What is laparoscopic surgery?

The word "laparoscopy" means to look inside the abdominal cavity with a special camera or scope. To perform laparoscopy, three or four small (5-10mm) incisions are made in the abdomen. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through these small incisions. The surgeon is then guided by the laparoscope, which transmits a picture of the intestinal organs on a video monitor.

The benefit of using this surgical approach is that you are less likely to experience pain and scarring after surgery, a more rapid recovery and less risk of infection.

Bowel surgeons have used laparoscopy to treat the following conditions:

Terms you may hear your doctors use when talking about bowel cancer surgery.

  • Polypectomy is a procedure in which polyps - small growths on the inner lining of the colon - are removed during a colonoscopy, a procedure in which a special instrument (the colonoscope) is inserted through the anus to view the rectum and colon.
  • Local excision is used to treat cancers in the lowest part of the colon, the rectum. The procedure involves removing the cancer and some tissue of the wall of the rectum. It may be done through the anus, the opening of the rectum or through a small cut in the rectum. The procedure does not require major abdominal surgery.
  • Resection involves the removal of part, or all, of the colon along with the cancer and its attaching tissues.
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