The important part of the digestive system is colon. The colon helps the body to absorb nutrients, minerals and water. The other function of the colon is help the body get rid of its waste food particles and undigested materials in the form of stool. The length of the colon is approximately six feet and makes up the major portion of the large intestine. At the end of the large intestine are the rectum and the anal canal.
When cancer occurs in the cells of the colon, it is known as the ‘Colon Cancer’. This type of cancer is common and is found in both men and women. It has been estimated that almost 110,000 people in the United States alone are diagnosed with colon cancer every year.
Generally 95% of all colon cancers are of the adenocarcinomas type and the rest 5% are of less common cell types which includes neuroendocrine tumors, gastrointestinal stomal tumors, carcinoid tumors, lymphomas, melanomas, leimyosarcomas and signet ring cell tumors.
For effective treatment of the patient the doctor has to examine the extant or the stage of the cancer and then decide about the course of treatment to be followed. If tumors are to be removed due to colon cancer, then resection surgery also known as the partial or hemicolectomy is chosen as treatment.
The resection surgery is a major surgery and requires the surgeon to enter the abdomen through a large incision in the abdominal wall. The section of the colon or rectum which is diseased is removed along with the lymph nodes and some parts of the healthy colon. After removal, the two healthy ends are reattached again. The aim of the surgeon performing the colon cancer surgery is to make the patient to return to the most normal bowel function as soon as possible.
In the aftermath of the operation, some tissues are removed from the lymph nodes and sent to the laboratory for pathological examination. The function of the lymph nodes is to conduct the flow of a fluid known as the “lymph” into the cells in the body. As a rule, cancer cells tend to gather in the lymph nodes, so it is a good indicator for determining cancer and how far it has spread. The risk of the cancer reoccurring is also reduced after the removal of the lymph nodes.
There may be cases where a large part of the colon or rectum is diseased and the reconnection (also known as the anastomosis) may not be possible. In such cases the surgeon may perform a colostomy.
Surgeons create colostomy by inserting a large part of the intestine through an opening created in the abdominal wall. The portion of the colon that remains outside the body is known as the “Stoma” (mouth). A bag is attached to the stoma to collect the waste material of the body. This bag has to be emptied several times in a day regularly.
Colostomies are a temporary phenomenon and is necessary for allowing the colon to heal properly after completion of the surgery. After some times, a second surgery is performed to reattach the colon together. Permanent colostomy is required only in 15 percent of the cases of the surgery.
Recovery from the colon cancer surgery takes place in different phases which includes the postoperative stay in the hospital and the recovery time at home. Problems like infections and blockages are monitored by the doctors and complications if any are promptly treated. The patient is generally able to get back to his or her regular diet after a period of time that may be prescribed by the doctor. Care should be taken in taking your diet which should preferably be as per the instructions of your doctor.