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Surgery For Colon Cancer: Stages II, III, IV

Resection: Preparation For A Colectomy

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To prepare for a resection:

  • You will be asked to stop:
    • Taking blood thinning drugs for at least a week prior to the procedure. If you are using blood thinning drugs, speak with the prescribing doctor before stopping.
    • Smoking. (For information about how to stop smoking, click here.)
    • Using recreational drugs.
  • You may also be asked to stop taking other medications which your doctor will discuss with you.  Speak with the prescribing doctor before stopping.
  • Other preparation procedures vary from doctor to doctor.  As a general matter, in order that your colon be as clean as possible:
    • Enemas and laxatives, accompanied by a lot of fluids, may be given to remove fecal material – just as they were before a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
    • The day before surgery you will be asked to eat no solid foods and only drink clear liquids. (For information about what is and is not part of a clear liquid diet, click here. While the document refers to a diet before a colonoscopy, it also applies before surgery).
    • While you may want to minimize the prep, keep in mind that if your colon is not clean, the surgery may be postponed.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed to remove bacteria from the colon. They will likely be continued as a prophylactic against infection.
  • As part of the procedure, you will be asked to sign a form known as “Informed Consent”. 
    • Generally patients first see the form right before surgery begins so there is no time to review it, much less time to make changes. 
    • To assure that you have the time to read and understand everything in the form, ask to see the consent form ahead of time. Don't be surprised if the doctor's staff tells you that the request is unusual. If you do not get to see the form ahead of time, take whatever time you need to understand ieverything in it when you do get the form.
    • If there are words or concepts you do not understand, ask to have them explained to you by your doctor or a qualified member of his or her staff.
    • Make whatever changes you believe are necessary. For example, you may not want to authorize an associate of the doctor's to perform the operation instead of the doctor you met and vetted. For more information, click here.
  • If you have ever had a blood clot in the past, make sure your surgeon knows.  A blood clot can be a dangerous complication of a surgery. If the doctor knows ahead of time, he or she can take steps to lessen the risk.
  • Talk with your surgeon about whether there will be blood loss during the operation and whether you may need a blood transfusion. If you may, consider reducing the already low risk involved in using some one else’s blood.  Alternatives include:
    • Banking your own blood before the operation. Banking your own blood can be expensive. If it is not used, it is thrown out.
    • Use of a machine during an operation that takes your blood, washes it, and returns it to your body.
  • In addition:
    • Check your health and disability insurance policies to find out:
      • What you have to do ahead of time, if anything
      • To learn about how much your share of the costs will be.
    • Think about how you will pay for your share of the medical expenses. (If money is tight, see the documents in "To Learn More.")
    • Make necessary arrangements at work and at home.
    • Sign or revisit your advance healthcare directives which allow you to stay in control of your medical care if you become unable to communicate. An advance directive known as a Health Care Power of Attorney is recommended for everyone. A Health Care Proxy is a person who can make medical decisoins that may need to made if you become unable to communicate. For information about Advance Directives, click here. For infomation about a Health Care Power of Attorney, click here
    • Make sure you have a valid, enforceable Will.
    • For additional steps to take before any surgery, click here. 

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