Surgery for Colon Cancer

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Use our online nomogram to calculate risk of cancer recurrence following surgery for colon cancer. Results can help physicians and patients make important treatment decisions.
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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 incorporate 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 cancer centers and surgeons that perform more colon cancer surgeries produce better outcomes for their patients, including fewer post-surgery complications. 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 projecting from the surface of the colon). 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 hemicolectomy, which 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 hemicolectomy quite well, and bowel function usually returns to normal in just a few months.

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, the risk of infection, blood loss, and recovery time:

  • laparoscopy, in which a thin, lighted tube with a video camera at its tip, called a laparoscope, is inserted through a small incision in the abdominal wall, allowing the surgeon to operate through this small opening using special instruments
  • 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 metastasized to other organs, surgery to remove the tumor may not be the best treatment option. Your treatment team can explain the benefits and risks of all of these treatment options.