Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer. When the cancer is found early, surgery alone is often the only treatment needed. Our surgeons are among the most experienced in the world in removing colon cancer. Depending on your situation, they may be able to use minimally invasive surgical approaches, including laparoscopy and robotic surgery. These techniques can help decrease the length of your hospital stay, lower your risk of complications, and help you recover faster.
Research shows that centers and surgeons that perform a high number of procedures produce better outcomes for their patients compared with centers and surgeons who treat colon cancer infrequently. The surgeons at Memorial Sloan Kettering have the skill and experience that enable them to complete highly successful procedures and ensure a high quality of life after surgery.
Depending on how far the cancer has spread, our surgeons can remove it in two different ways.
When colon cancer is at an early stage, the tumor is often fully contained within a polyp (an abnormal growth on the inside surface of the colon or rectum). In these cases, removing the polyp during a colonoscopy may be enough to cure the cancer.
If your colon cancer is more advanced and has begun to spread through the colon, you may need more extensive surgery. If so, your surgeon can do a procedure called a segmental colectomy that removes several inches of your bowel, including the part of the colon that contains the tumor.
Your surgeon also removes nearby lymph nodes where the tumor might have spread. In most cases, your surgeon can reconstruct your bowel by joining the two ends of the remaining bowel.
Patients generally tolerate segmental colectomy quite well, and bowel function usually returns to normal in just a few months.
Our experts explain the standard and emerging surgery options for colon and rectal cancer.
Our surgeons have been leaders in incorporating minimally invasive surgical techniques into colon cancer operations. Two techniques in particular can help minimize damage to nearby organs and tissues, lower the risk of infection and blood loss, and improve recovery time:
- Laparoscopy. This procedure uses a thin, lighted tube with a video camera at its tip, called a laparoscope. It is inserted through a small opening your surgeon will make in your abdominal wall that will allow him or her to operate using special instruments.
- The da Vinci® Surgical System, a state-of-the-art robotic surgical tool that may decrease post-surgery pain and recovery time. Robotic devices have been used successfully to treat other types of cancer, such as prostate and gynecological tumors. Using the da Vinci® Surgical System to treat colon cancer is still relatively new. It’s appropriate only in specific conditions.
If you have advanced colon cancer that has spread to other organs, surgery to remove the tumor may not be the best approach. Your treatment team can explain the benefits and risks of all of your treatment options.