Colon cancer is a disease in where cancer cells form in the tissues of your colon. The aim of bowel surgery is to remove your colorectal cancer. A bowel surgery, or partial colectomy, involves removing tumors in your colon or rectum along with some of your normal tissue around it. This normal tissue is known as the cancer margin and is necessary to remove because it may also be cancerous. Your lymph nodes may also be removed and tested for cancer. The name for this type of operation is resection, where tissues or part of an organ is removed. The surgeon’s job is to remove just the right amount so that there is still good blood supply for the bowels, and effectively sew the healthy parts of the colon or rectum back together.
Risks & Factors for Colon Cancer
- 50 years of age or older
- Family history of colon or rectal cancer
- Hereditary conditions (familial adenomatous polyposis, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer)
- Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast.
- Polyps present in your colon in the past
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
- Blood in the stool
- Change in bowel habits
- Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
- Narrower stools than usual
- Weight loss for no reason
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
Barium enema: a series of x-rays taken of your lower gastrointestinal tract
Biopsy: removing your cells or tissues that may be affected by cancer and examining them under a microscope
Colonoscopy: a procedure that looks inside your rectum and colon for polyps, abnormalities, and cancer
Digital rectal exam: an exam of your rectum performed by a doctor or nurse, who inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to feel for anything abnormal
Fecal occult blood test: small samples of your stool and the possible blood in it being checked under a microscope.
History: a nurse or doctor will take your health habits, past illnesses, and treatments.
Physical exam: a nurse or doctor will check your body for general signs of health and disease, lumps, or anything else that may be unusual.
Sigmoidoscopy: a nurse or doctor looks inside the rectum and lower colon for polyps using a sigmoidoscope (a thin, tubelike instrument with a light and a lens for viewing) and removing samples to be checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
Virtual colonoscopy: a series of x-rays of the colon combined by a computer to create more detailed images. This is known as computed tomography and it makes it easier for health professionals to figure out more information about the inside surface of your colon.
Recovery & Treatment
Blocking/Holes: whether your tumor has blocked or created a hole in your colon
CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) Levels: if the CEA levels in your blood have increased, it may be an indicator of cancer being present
General Health: pain or conditions occurring in other parts of your body.
Recurring Cancer: whether your cancer will or has returned in another part of your body after previous treatments
Stage of Cancer: whether your cancer is present in the inner lining of your colon only, involves your whole colon, or has spread to other places in your body.
How does cancer spread in my body?
Blood: Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through your blood to other places in your body.
Lymph System: cancer invades and travels through your lymph vessels to other places in your body.
Tissue: cancer invades the normal tissue in your body that surrounds the tumors.
If your condition requires advanced treatments beyond your general surgeon’s expertise, your surgeon may refer you to a surgeon with more specialized training.
However, many general surgeons go on to get additional board certifications in surgical specialties including pediatric surgery, bariatric surgery, vascular surgery, gynecology, and urology, just to name a few.
Additionally, a general surgeon can recognize and provide surgical and non-surgical treatment of a multitude of conditions related to management of pain, weight loss, geriatrics and chronic diseases.
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