An Option in Treatment of Colon Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery

Posted on February 5th, 2009 by

If you’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer and your healthcare team has determined that you’re a candidate for either complete or partial removal of your colon (colectomy) or a minimally invasive surgical approach (laparoscopic surgery), you’re likely wandering about the benefits and risks of each. Specially, you may want to know how the less invasive laparoscopic approach measures up in terms of short- and long-term outcomes and side effects when compared with its more extensive counterpart.

A basic understanding of the laparoscopic approach is a good place to begin:

Laparoscopic surgery involves the use of a video camera to create a live picture of the inside of the patient’s body, allowing surgeons to do procedures by making only a few small incisions rather than a larger opening in the abdomen.

In laparoscopic surgery, a few one-centimeter incisions are made in the patient’s abdomen. A small tube that holds a video camera can then be inserted through the incisions, creating a live picture of the inside of the patient’s body. This picture is continually displayed on a television screen so that physicians can perform the entire surgery by watching the screen. The cancer is removed through a larger incision.

A comparison of laparoscopic surgery and colectomy:

When laparoscopic surgery and colectomy were compared in a clinical trial with patients who had Stage I colon cancer, researchers reported laparoscopic surgery to be as safe and effective as standard surgery (see Table 1). Furthermore, patients who underwent laparoscopic surgery used less pain medication and their stay in the hospital was reduced by an average of one day compared with patients who underwent standard surgery[1]

Table 1 Laparoscopic surgery versus conventional surgery in the treatment of early-stage colon cancer

  Laparoscopic Surgery Conventional Surgery
Cancer Recurrence 16% 18%
3-year Survival 86% 85%

Benefits of minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery:

  • Whereas extensive surgery can cause serious side effects, including infections, severe pain, and a long recovery period, laparoscopic surgery is a less invasive surgical technique and has been shown to be as effective as standard surgery with fewer side effects.
  • This type of surgery is associated with reduced pain and shortened hospitalization.

[1] Nelson H, Sargent D, Wie H, et al. A comparison of laparoscopically assisted and open colectomy for colon cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2004;350:2050-2059.

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Tags: Colon Cancer

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