What to Expect During Colorectal Cancer Surgery


After you first discovered colon cancer in your body, you might have felt as if the world stopped turning for a moment. However, this perfectly treatable problem can be fixed with colorectal surgery. Expect your doctor to ask multiple questions about your health history and a general physical exam to be performed. If you require intestinal cleaning, also expect a prescription for a laxative medicine to take the evening prior to the surgery.

All patients generally experience the need for blood samples. Depending on your age and general health, you may also be asked to have an EKG, chest X-ray, lung function tests, or other tests designed to ensure that you can handle the surgery. In addition, do not be surprised if you must meet with another doctor prior to surgery for further discussion.

Finally, you must meet with an anaesthesiologist, a professional trained to discuss the type of pain medication received during surgery. You will also learn about the types of pain control offered after the operation, such as strong pain pills. All of these requirements are as necessary as they are frightening, but you need not stress yourself overly much about this procedure.

The Night Before

Colorectal surgery for colon cancer saved the lives of thousands last year alone and it can do wonders for you too. The night before, doctors take the time to prescribe laxative medication. Although this might be uncomfortable throughout the night, you must be sure to follow the directions carefully and take all of the prescribed medication. This step should decrease your risk of developing an infection from waste-borne bacteria found in the intestine. After midnight on the night prior to the surgery, do not eat or drink anything at all. Only after completed surgery and a trip to the recovery room are you allowed to enjoy a cool glass of water and something to eat.

Surgery Day

Before speaking directly with your doctor, your nurse may go ahead and insert an intravenous, or IV, tube into a vein in your arm, wrist, or hand. Doctors and nurses utilise this line to administer drugs and fluids before, during, and after the operation. Once he or she is ready for you, expect the surgeon to call the nurses to wheel you into the operating room. Once there, try to relax and count your breathing slowly, allowing the anaesthesiologist to do his or her job. At this point, you will completely fall asleep and remember not a moment of the procedure.

The Procedure

In traditional “open” colon surgery, an incision made in your abdomen is the window into your colon. Once inside, your doctor will remove the cancer and some normal colon on either side of the cancer as well as nearby lymph nodes. By doing this, he or she can ensure he or she does not miss any hidden cancer cells that may regrow into another problem later. During laparoscopic surgery, a much less invasive option, tiny incisions are made to create a passageway for a special instrument known as a laparoscope. With this tool, a doctor may remove your cancer just as completely as he or she would traditionally, only with less scarring and a less invasive strategy.


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