Most people with colon cancer begin treatment by having surgery to remove their cancer. If colon cancer has spread (metastasized) to another area, doctors typically start with chemotherapy to treat all sites of disease. After chemo, they may recommend surgery if the metastases have responded and can be surgically removed.
As an Fred Hutch patient, you’ll have surgery performed by a UW Medicine surgeon specially trained and board certified in colorectal surgery.
Your exact procedure will depend on factors like the stage of your cancer and your overall health, weight and preferences. You and your team will discuss your options and decide together what is best for you.
Our surgeons use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible and follow evidence-based guidelines to enhance your recovery (“early-recovery after surgery” protocols).
If your cancer is limited to one or more polyps, it may have been completely removed during your colonoscopy.
If a polypectomy is not enough or is not possible, your surgeon will remove the segment of your colon that contains cancer.
- Your surgeon will also check whether cancer has spread to other organs (which will include removing nearby lymph nodes).
- Whenever possible, we perform colectomies laparoscopically (through small “keyhole” incisions). Smaller incisions typically mean a shorter hospital stay and less need for pain medication.
- If laparoscopic surgery isn’t possible, your surgery will be done through a single, longer incision in your abdomen.
During surgery to treat colon cancer, some patients need reconstruction of the pelvis or perineum. The type of reconstruction depends on the exact surgery being done for the cancer. If needed, our skilled reconstruction team will cover and close the perineal area or place tissue in the pelvis. This is done using tissue from another area of your body (flap reconstruction), typically the abdomen or thigh. Our colorectal and reconstructive surgeons often work together to do both resection (removal of the cancer) and reconstruction during the same surgery.
Some people need a temporary or permanent colostomy. The surgeon creates an opening (stoma) in your abdomen and attaches the open end of your colon to it on the inside. A bag is attached on the outside to collect waste.
We can help you learn how to care for your colostomy and adjust so you can go on with normal activities comfortably. We have a specially certified wound ostomy nurse who understands the physical and emotional impact of ostomies and can work closely with you, your family and your doctors. Our survivorship clinic also plays an integral part in your ongoing care.