Most colon cancers develop from polyps that form on the wall of your colon or large intestine. There are several factors such as genetics, your diet, and the presence of inflammatory bowel disease cause colon cancer. You may also have a higher risk for colon cancer if you’re overweight, smoke cigarettes, or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.
Typically, doctors diagnose cancers of the colon via a test called a colonoscopy. You may be due for a colonoscopy if you’re over the age of 50 or have concerning symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, blood in the stool, or abdominal pain.
During the procedure, a colonoscope -- a long, thin, flexible camera -- gives your doctor a magnified view of tissues inside your colon. When the test identifies abnormal tissue or polyps, the polyp is removed and biopsied.
A bowel preparation may be prescribed before either a colonoscopy or a colon resection operation. Cleaning out the colon of fecal matter is critical to visualizing the walls of the colon during a colonoscopy and reducing the risks of infections and leaks after surgery.
Typically, a bowel preparation involves a clear liquid diet for 1-2 days before surgery, a special cleansing medication, and sometimes antibiotics to reduce the bacterial burden in the colon.
The mainstay of treating colon cancer remains surgical resection. That typically involves removing the section of your colon where the tumor is, along with a margin of healthy colonic tissue. Furthermore, the fat, blood vessels, and lymph nodes surrounding the area of the tumor are also removed to stage the condition accurately.
All of our surgeons have extensive experience in laparoscopic, or minimally invasive colon surgery, although, in some instances, a traditional open approach may be necessary.
Colectomy refers to an operation to remove a section of your colon. The location and amount of colon removed depends on a variety of factors, including the location and size of your tumor, along with the anatomy of your colon. Typically after resection, the two ends of the colon are hooked back together, although in some cases, an ostomy bag is necessary.
Colostomy and ileostomy
In some cases, the ends of the colon cannot or should not be reconnected after an operation due to the location of the tumor or due to the risk of leakage at the site of reconnection. In those instances, a permanent or temporary ostomy is created to allow fecal matter to exit the body via an opening in the abdominal wall.
A colostomy is created when the colon or large intestine is brought up through the abdominal wall, and an ileostomy refers to when the more proximal small intestine is brought up.
For almost all people, there is a major adjustment period to this, and our surgical team and expert ostomy nurses we work with will help educate you on the ins and outs of ostomy care after your operation.
In most cases, an ostomy is intended to be a temporary inconvenience, although in some cases, it may be a permanent fixture.
Ostomy reversal refers to a second operation where your provider removes the ostomy restores and intestinal continuity.
The most critical factor in determining the timing of ostomy reversal is a full recovery from the first operation. Typically, we recommend waiting at least three months before reversing the ostomy.
Often, X-ray testing such as a barium enema or a repeat colonoscopy may be necessary before ostomy reversal.
Every case of colon cancer is different, and our surgeons work closely with medical oncologists to create the optimal treatment plan for you. In most cases, the decision to undergo chemotherapy will happen after surgical resection and depends on the staging that occurs during a pathologic examination of the portion of colon removed.
Please contact both your Plan and the physician’s office for participation as this may vary at any time.