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Colon & Rectal Surgery
Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine, or colon. The colon is the final part of the digestive tract.
Colon cancer typically affects older adults, though it can happen at any age. It usually begins as small, noncancerous, or benign, clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time, some of these polyps can become colon cancers.
Colon cancer sometimes is called colorectal cancer, which is a term that combines colon cancer and rectal cancer, which begins in the rectum.
Personalized cancer care
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is life-altering and overwhelming. Our oncologists and team in La Crosse will work with you to create a cancer treatment plan designed to meet your needs and preferences, whether you need radiation, chemotherapy or surgery, or would benefit from cancer support groups. Our goal is to provide you with the highest quality of life possible. Learn more about our oncology services and teams.
Colon cancer treatment often involves a combination of therapies. When possible, surgery is used to cut away cancer cells. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that remain and reduce the risk that cancer will return.
If surgeons are concerned that the cancer can't be removed completely without hurting nearby organs and structures, your doctor may recommend a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy as your initial treatment. These combined treatments may shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove during an operation.
If your colon cancer is small, your doctor may recommend a minimally invasive approach to surgery, such as:
- Removing polyps during a colonoscopy (polypectomy)
If your cancer is small, localized, completely contained within a polyp and in a very early stage, your doctor may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection
Larger polyps might be removed during colonoscopy using special tools to remove the polyp and a small amount of the inner lining of the colon in a procedure called an endoscopic mucosal resection.
- Minimally invasive, or laparoscopic, surgery
Polyps that can't be removed during a colonoscopy may be removed using laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, your surgeon performs the operation through several small incisions in your abdominal wall, inserting instruments with attached cameras that display your colon on a video monitor. The surgeon may also take samples from lymph nodes in the area where the cancer is located.
Surgery for more advanced colon cancer
If the cancer has grown into or through your colon, your surgeon may recommend:
- Partial colectomy
During this procedure, the surgeon removes the part of your colon that contains the cancer, along with a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer. Your surgeon is often able to reconnect the healthy portions of your colon or rectum. This procedure can commonly be done by a minimally invasive approach (laparoscopy).
- Surgery to create a way for waste to leave your body
When it's not possible to reconnect the healthy portions of your colon or rectum, you may need an ostomy. This involves creating an opening in the wall of your abdomen from a portion of the remaining bowel for the elimination of stool into a bag that fits securely over the opening. Sometimes the ostomy is only temporary, allowing your colon or rectum time to heal after surgery. In some cases, however, the colostomy may be permanent.
- Lymph node removal
Nearby lymph nodes are usually also removed during colon cancer surgery and tested for cancer.