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Surgical removal of a colorectal tumor is the basic therapy for treating most types of colon cancer.

There are a variety of surgical procedures used with respect to colon cancer. Each of the different procedures removes the cancer from the colon and from nearby organs if the cancer has spread.

Colorectal surgical procedures are known by different names. The name of a particular procedure is not relevant. The key from your point of view is to understand what will be removed and why. For instance, will just polyps be removed, or will a part of your rectum also be removed. If so, what part? How much of it? Your surgeon will likely want to leave a wide margin on either side of the tumor, usually four centimeters (1.5 inches).

For larger tumors, and for cancers that have spread beyond the rectum, colorectal surgery which removes a tumor in the rectum and possibly nearby lymph nodes is known as “Colorectal Resection” (It is also known as a partial or segmental colectomy).

  • Traditionally the incision is large. This is known as “Open Surgery.” More recently, surgeons have been able to perform minimally invasive surgery by making small incisions through a procedure known as Laparoscopic or Robotic Surgery.
  • Once inside, surgeons do the same work with either procedure. They remove the tumor and a short piece of healthy bowel on either side. The ends are then reconnected. Nearby organs such as the liver and lungs are checked to see if the cancer has spread.
  • Any type of surgery for larger tumors may result in having an ostomy or a stoma either temporarily or, in a few cases, permanently. There may also be other side effects including pain and changes in bowel functions which may take time to recover from.
  • Recovery times are much shorter for minimally invasive procedures.
  • Resection, Open Surgery, Laparoscopy and Robotic Surgery are described in other sections of this document, including preparation, the procedure, hospital stay, possible side effects, and recovery.

To find a colorectal surgical specialist in your area, visit the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeon’s web site at: or call 847.290.9184 offsite link (Illinois)

NOTE: Radiation treatment is sometimes prescribed for a period of time before surgery to reduce tumor size.

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