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The basic therapy for treating most types of Stage 0 and Stage I colorectal cancer is surgical removal of the cancer through a local excision (a procedure known as a “polypectomy”.) The surgical procedure involves the removal of small polyps in your colon.

A polypectomy is usually done on an outpatient basis in either a doctor’s office or an outpatient surgical center. You will be sent home the same day.

NOTE: If your surgery will require you to be an in-patient (which means that you will stay in a hospital at least overnight), click here instead of reading the rest of this article.

Preparation For A Polypectomy

  • Preparation for a polypectomy resection starts the day before by cleaning out your rectum – just as you did when you prepared for either a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. (If you haven't gone through a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy yet, click here to learn about the preparation.) 
  • Check to see if your mobile phone can record conversations. If not, get an inexpensive recorder. It will come in handy as noted below. The ability to record will also be useful for other doctor appointments. 
  • Line up someone to drive you home after the procedure.
  • For additional tips about preparing for an outpatient procedure, click here. 

The Polypectomy Procedure

  • You will be led into the treatment room which usually has a table for you to lie on as well as the equipment that the doctor will need to use during the procedure.
  • You will be sedated with a drug administered through a needle. The sedative takes effect quickly. Some people go into something like a pleasant twilight level of consciousness. Some people go to sleep.
  • The same instruments that were used to diagnose colorectal cancer are used to remove it, including the colonoscope. (To refresh your recollection about the instrument, click here.)
  • The procedure is painless. It takes place through the anus without cutting skin. 
  • Polyps which are shaped like mushrooms may be removed with a wire snare which loops around the polyp. Electricity is then run through the wire to burn or destroy the tissue. This is known as electrocautery:  A grounding pad is placed on the body (usually the thigh) before the surgery to protect the patient. 
  • Polyps with other shapes will be removed using other tools.

After A Polypectomy Procedure 

  • Your doctor will allow you to wake up.
  • He/she will then discuss the results of the procedure. Your memory and focus will be hazy for a brief period of time after the procedure due to the sedatives. Therefore, it is advisable to record this discussion or at least have someone with you who can remind you later of what was discussed.  (Check your mobile phone to see if it records. If not, inexpensive recorders are readily available.)
  • After staying in the recovery area for about an hour, you will be released to go home as long as you have someone to drive or accompany you.
  • You will likely have the same experience after leaving the doctor’s office that you had during the diagnostic procedure. The most common after effect is bloating and gas for a short period of time.
  • While not common, additional risks from this surgery include:
    • Bleeding from the surgical site. This generally resolves itself in time.
    • Perforation of the colon or rectum which results in a hole in the wall. If this happens, the doctor is usually aware of the situation before you are discharged.
    • Your healthcare team will brief you about other possible complications to be aware of and what steps to take if they occur. 

NOTE: If you are treated in a hospital other than your local hospital,  get a copy of your medical records for the local hospital where you will do the follow up. You are legally entitled to a copy. There may be a charge. For additional information, click here.