Jefferson University Hospitals

Colon Cancer Surgery

When a polyp is removed by colonoscopy, surgery is usually the only treatment needed.

For rectal cancer or colon cancer, surgery is the normal treatment and is often the only treatment needed when the cancer is detected early. Your specialist can remove the cancer using colonoscopy in some cases, but often an open surgical procedure will be required.

Treatment may also include radiation therapy before, during or after surgery; chemotherapy after surgery; or immunotherapy to strengthen the body’s immune system so it can attack and destroy cancer cells. These cancer treatments may be given separately or in combination.

Your doctor will recommend the treatment methods best for you, depending on the size of the tumor, the stage of malignancy and whether it has metastasized, as well as other factors

If I Have Colon Cancer, Will I Need a Colostomy?

Usually not - surgeons can almost always treat colon cancer by removing the cancerous part of the colon and joining the remaining two ends together. Other times, a procedure called a colostomy may be needed.

In a colostomy, the cancerous part of the bowel is removed, after which the surgeon creates an artificial opening in the abdomen, bypassing the lower colon and rectum for the elimination of body waste. The waste is collected in a special bag attached to the opening.

Usually, a colostomy is only temporary, to give your bowel time to heal. In fact, thanks to new medical and surgical developments in recent years, the need for permanent colostomies has been significantly reduced. Today, even patients with rectal cancer, whose only choice in the past was usually a permanent colostomy, have other options. Preoperative radiation therapy and innovative surgical techniques can treat cancer in the lower rectum without jeopardizing the natural function of the muscles that control bowel habits, thereby dramatically reducing the likelihood of needing a colostomy.

Will I Have to Come Back After Treatment of Colon Cancer or Polyps?

Once you have been treated for polyps, colon cancer or its precursors, you must remain vigilant.

Your doctor will want to use blood tests, as well as other colon cancer screening tests described above, to watch for any reoccurrence, suspicious areas or warning signs of any additional cancer.