A colectomy involves removal of the part of the colon that has cancer

The most common surgery for colon cancer is called a colectomy or hemicolectomy (partial colectomy or segmental resection). The surgeon removes the part of the colon that has cancer, as well as a small amount of normal colon on either side. Nearby lymph nodes are removed as well and checked for cancer. This surgery can be done through one long incision in the belly, called an open colectomy. Or it can be done by using long, thin surgical tools passed through several smaller cuts in the belly. This is called a laparoscopic-assisted colectomy.

How a colectomy procedure is performed

A colectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat colon diseases. These include cancer, inflammatory disease, or diverticulitis. The surgery involves removing a portion of the colon, which is part of the large intestine. When treating cancer, the surgeon will typically remove the portion of the colon that appears cancerous. He or she will also remove another small portion on either side of the cancerous part and some nearby lymph nodes. The remaining parts of the colon are then attached to each other, or a stoma (an opening to the outside of the body) is created. This is called a colostomy.

A colectomy can be done in two ways:

  • Open colectomy – The traditional procedure is an open colectomy. This involves a long, vertical incision on your stomach so that the surgeon can get to the colon.
  • Laparoscopic-assisted colectomy – The newer form of colectomy is a laparoscopic-assisted colectomy. This involves only small incisions, and a tiny video camera is inserted into one of the incisions to help the surgeon see the area being worked on. This may be a choice for some cancers. People often have less pain and recover quicker from this type of surgery because of the smaller incisions.

Reasons you might need a colectomy

A colectomy is usually performed if colon cancer is caught in its earlier stages. Sometimes even when cancer has progressed beyond the early stages, a more extensive colectomy can be a choice.

Your health care provider will recommend a colectomy if your medical team has determined that this surgery will give you the best chance of survival or improve your quality of life.

Colectomy is generally regarded as a fairly safe procedure. Still, as with any surgery, it carries some possible risks. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your health care provider before the procedure.

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