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Surgery For Colon Cancer: Stages II, III, IV

Resection: After You Leave The Hospital

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After you leave the hospital:

  • Follow up visits:
    • Follow up visits will be scheduled for removal of the staples and to check incision for healing, to discuss results and next steps.
    • There will be another visit 4 – 6 weeks later.
    • After that, there will be quarterly follow-up visits with your surgeon. 
  • Follow the doctor’s orders regarding breathing exercise, food and liquid intake, bathing, exercise and returning to work. The norm for a return to work after major surgery is 3 – 6 weeks. It may be longer if your work involves heavy lifting or other strenuous activity..
  • Start a walking program as soon as you can and to the extent that you are able to. 
    • Walking is good for your bowel function and your lungs. It also helps keep blood clots from forming.
    •  Avoid more active movements until your doctor permits.
  • Expect a change in your bowel habits that will get better over time. If the changes are uncomfortable or if they don’t get better, speak with your doctor. There are drugs and bulking agents to consider.
  • The incision:
    • If you feel more than discomfort in or near your incision, let your doctor know. There may be an infection or you may not be receiving enough pain medication.
    • Wear soft, loose clothing over the incision.
    • Do not apply anything on the incision until after the staples are removed and the incision is completely healed unless approved by your doctor.
  • Contact your doctor or other health care professional immediately if:
    • You experience any warmth, see any redness, or drainage that changes color.
    • Something unexpected occurs 
    • If symptoms become intolerable.
  • Ask friends and family to take care of the chores you cannot do. Perhaps a family member can coordinate volunteers. 
    • Free online tools are available to help coordinate care schedules. For example, see the following:
    • Friends can organize meals through such websites as MealTrain offsite link where you can also list foods you do and do not like.
    • As noted above, it is preferable to use a fictitious name so your information does not become public.
  • if you need home care after you leave the hospital, it is available. 
    • The discharge planner in the hospital will help to arrange care.
    • You can either hire an agency, or hire helpers on your own. There are pros and cons to each method which are discussed in the document in "To Learn More."
    • Home care may be covered by your health insurance.

Follow Up:

  • Follow up visits will be scheduled for removal of the staples  or stiches, to check the incision for healing, and to discuss results and next steps.
  • There will be another visit 4 – 6 weeks later.
  • After that, your doctor will let you know how often he or she wants you to follow up. 




  • If you haven't already, review the hospital bill. According to a variety of studies, the percentage of hospital bills that are wrong is quite high.It is worth your while to take the time to review the bill – even if it is being paid for entirely by insurance. Survivorship A to Z shows you how, as well as to how to negotiate a hospital bill, in the document in “To Learn More.”  
  • If there are health problems after you get homethe best way to ensure that you are covered by insurance is to return to the same hospital.  For example, postoperative care is part of surgery and follow-up will likely be part of it.  Surgery may begin when you enter the operating room but it does not end when you leave .

For information about life during the recovery period after treatment ends, see: Colorectal Cancer: Post Treatment 0 – 6 Months

To Learn More

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