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Providing a Better Quality of Life After Colorectal Cancer Surgery

The colon and rectal surgeons at the AdventHealth Digestive Institute treat colon and rectal cancer with the least invasive surgical procedures possible. They strive to use surgeries that will give patients as much normal function as possible after cancer treatment.

Colorectal cancer is usually caused by one or more polyps that turn into cancer. Not all polyps on the colon or rectum will turn into cancer. However, more than 19 out of 20 of the ones that do are adenocarcinomas, the same type of glandular cancer tumor commonly found in the rest of the digestive tract. Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer that affects both men and women, and it is the second largest cause of cancer-related death. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include being age 50 or older, having a family history of colorectal cancer, having inflammatory bowel disease, being obese and having a sedentary lifestyle.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Most colon and rectal cancers are slow-growing and do not cause symptoms until they are more advanced.

Colorectal cancer symptoms are similar to those of other digestive cancers and conditions and can include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unintended weight loss

Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

If your doctor suspects you could have colorectal cancer, you will likely have the following tests:

  • Blood testing
  • Imaging studies that may include an ultrasound, a CT scan or an MRI scan
  • A diagnostic colonoscopy if the above tests indicate that you have a colon tumor. During the diagnostic colonoscopy, tissue samples will be collected for a biopsy. If there are any polyps present, they will be removed during the colonoscopy.
  • A pathologist will study the sampled cells with a microscope to determine if they are cancer.
  • A shorter scope called a proctoscope will be used if rectal cancer is suspected. The doctor will look at the tumor and determine its location.
  • Other imaging tests will be done if the presence of colon or rectal cancer has been confirmed. These imaging tests will allow doctors to see if the cancer has spread, or metastasized.
  • Cancer staging. Like most cancers, colorectal cancer is given a stage from 1 to 4. The earliest, stage 1, is when the cancer has not yet spread beyond the wall of the colon or rectum. The latest, stage 4, is when it has spread to distant organs.

Treatment Surgery for Colon and Rectal Cancers

Depending on your stage of colon or rectal cancer, surgical treatments may include anything from removing a precancerous polyp with a colonoscope to removing a portion of the colon or rectum to removing the entire colon, rectum and anus and nearby organs.

Sometimes if a tumor is blocking the colon, a procedure to redirect the intestines such as an ostomy will also be necessary. This procedure can often be reversed once the tumor is removed. Many colorectal surgeries require a permanent ostomy. However, the experienced colon and rectal surgeons at Digestive Institute offer sphincter-preserving surgery.

Minimally Invasive Surgery for Colon and Rectal Cancers

As often as possible, Digestive Institute's colon and rectal surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery for certain colorectal cancers. Laparoscopic surgery involves special instruments that allow a colorectal surgeon to perform some operations through three to five very small incisions the size of keyholes. Some colorectal surgeries are performed with the assistance of a robotic surgical system that allows them to be minimally invasive procedures.

While minimally invasive colorectal surgery is not right for every patient, some patients can benefit from it. These benefits include less pain, less time spent in the hospital, a faster recovery and a decreased chance for complications after the surgery compared to a traditional open procedure. These benefits can sometimes allow patients to begin their next stage of cancer treatment sooner.

The following procedures are used to treat colorectal cancers. In the right situations, the Digestive Institute colorectal surgeons can offer them minimally invasively:

  • Colectomy (Colon Resection) – A colectomy involves removing part of all of the colon as well as nearby lymph nodes. Usually only the part of the colon affected by cancer is removed, which can be about one-third of the colon. However, if the rest of the colon has many polyps or is affected by another condition such as inflammatory bowel disease, then it might be completely removed. Having a minimally invasive colectomy from a Digestive Institute surgeon experienced in this approach can shorten recovery time.
  • Proctectomy (Rectal Resection) – If you have rectal cancer, then surgery to remove some or all of the rectum will often be needed. This is called a proctectomy or rectal resection. The rectum consists of the last six inches of the large intestine between the colon and the anus. Depending on the exact location, size of the tumor and how deeply is has spread into the intestinal wall, minimally invasive proctectomy may be done laparoscopically or as a transanal endoscopic microsurgery. This latter procedure does not involve any external scars. Instead, a very thin endoscope and other surgical tools can be inserted through the body’s natural opening at the anus.
  • Proctocolectomy (Colorectal Resection) – In some cases, patients will need the colon, rectum and anus removed to best treat cancer, a procedure called proctocolectomy. Before proceeding with this approach, Digestive Institute colorectal surgeons will explore other options that may preserve the rectum and anus. This procedure is followed by either J-pouch surgery or an ileostomy so the body has a new way to store and release solid waste. A proctocolectomy is a very complex surgery. While our surgeons have experience performing it minimally invasively, it may sometimes require an open procedure.
  • Abdominoperineal Resection for Rectal Cancer – An abdominoperineal resection involves removing the anus, rectum and part of the sigmoid colon to stop or reduce the spread of rectal cancer. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed. Even though it is an extensive procedure, the Digestive Institute surgeons are experienced in performing it as a minimally invasive procedure, either as laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery. Abdominoperineal resection requires a colostomy, in which the bottom of the intestine is connected to an opening in the abdomen so waste can exit the body. Having a permanent colostomy will understandably change a patient’s lifestyle. Therefore, Digestive Institute surgeons first consider sphincter-sparing surgery alternatives for patients with rectal cancer who have been referred for an abdominoperineal resection.
  • Pelvic Exenteration – In rare cases, colorectal cancer requires the removal of nearby organs in a procedure called a pelvic exenteration. The surgeon might need to remove the bladder and/or prostate or uterus if these organs are affected by colorectal cancer.

Surgical Cancer Care

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  • Esophageal Cancer

    Typically esophageal cancer requires surgery in addition to radiation and chemotherapy. Learn more about the surgical treatments our specialists can provide.

  • Gastric/Stomach Cancer

    We help diagnose and treat stomach cancer. We even have minimally invasive options. Learn more about how our gastroenterologists can help you.

  • Duodenal/Small Bowel Cancer

    Our gastroenterologists diagnose and treat small bowel and duodenal cancer. We offer three minimally invasive treatment options.

  • Pancreatic Cancer

    Our surgeons are among the region’s most experienced in pancreatic surgery. We can help treat your cancer with minimally invasive options. Learn more today.

  • Liver Cancer

    Our AdventHealth Digestive Institute surgeons offer surgical and non-surgical liver cancer treatments, depending on your specific case. Schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists.

  • Gallbladder Cancer

    Removing the gallbladder with cancer is a very complex surgery that requires highly experienced surgeons like those at AdventHealth Digestive Institute.

  • Colon and Rectal Cancer

    Our experienced gastroenterologists can diagnose and treat colon and rectal cancer. Learn more about treatment and surgery options.

  • Anal Cancer

    Our colon and rectal surgeons can help diagnose and treat anal cancer. We offer anal cancer surgery when necessary.

  • Public Reporting of Outcomes

    Our compassionate medical staff is committed to providing high-quality healthcare services in Hillsborough County.

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Recover Faster With Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery

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Surgical Consultations For Digestive Cancer Without The Wait

Appointments Within Five Days for Patients with Cancer

At AdventHealth Digestive Institute, we know that after being diagnosed with cancer, patients want and often need to begin treatment quickly. So we make it a priority to offer appointments for cancer surgery consultations within five business days, and often earlier.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer, or have just found out they have cancer again, qualify for this priority access. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion. We want to help you start your treatment as soon as possible.

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