Resection is another name for any operation that removes tissue or
part of an organ. Bowel resection, also called partial colectomy, for
colorectal cancer removes the tumor and part of the
colon or rectum on either side.
The goal of bowel resection is to take out the part of the colon or
rectum where the cancer is. Nearby
lymph nodes are taken out and tested for cancer. Then
healthy parts of the colon or rectum are sewn back together. Bowel resection is
done either by opening the abdomen (open resection), or by
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Note: Other PDQ summaries containing information related to rectal cancer include the following:
Unusual Cancers of Childhood Treatment (colorectal cancer...
Bowel resection requires
general anesthesia. You may stay in the hospital for 4
to 7 days or as long as 2 weeks after surgery.
Sometimes the two parts of the colon or rectum cannot be
reattached, so the surgeon performs a
colostomy. This creates an opening, called a stoma, on
the outside of the body for the stool, or feces, to pass through into a
colostomy bag. Usually the colostomy is temporary, until the colon or rectum
heals. If the lower part of the rectum has been removed, the colostomy is
permanent. Most people who have colon cancer don't need a colostomy.
Treatment after bowel resection may include radiation therapy and
chemotherapy, in case there are any cancer cells remaining.
Radiation therapy uses X-rays to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy uses drugs-given either as pills or
through a needle-to kill them.
Follow-up care is important because colorectal cancer can come back
after surgery, especially if it was not discovered when it is in an early
Why It Is Done
In early-stage cancer, surgery is done to remove as much cancer as
possible to give the greatest chance of a cure.
In cases of advanced colorectal cancer that has spread
(metastasized) to other parts of the body, bowel resection is often done to
remove tumors that are blocking the intestine or causing bleeding.
How Well It Works
When colorectal cancer is caught before it has grown into the
tissue and muscle layers of the colon or rectum, surgery (bowel resection) cures the
disease in about half of the people.1 When the cancer has spread to those tissues, surgery
is less likely to result in a cure.
Bowel resection is the most successful treatment for colorectal
cancer. Even if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, bowel
resection frequently relieves symptoms caused by blockage.2
Possible complications after a bowel resection include infection,
bleeding, or scar tissue formation (adhesions).
What To Think About
This operation does not usually cause problems, even in older
people. Age should not be a reason to avoid having a bowel resection.
In some cases, bowel resection can be done with a
laparoscopy. Laparoscopy for bowel resection usually
involves 3 to 6 very small incisions instead of one large one. Recovery time is
faster as a result.
You and your doctor will think about several things in deciding
whether you should have open resection or a laparoscopy. These include:
The location and extent of the
Your general health.
Whether you have scar
tissue in the area from previous surgery.
Your doctor's expertise
Sometimes a laparoscopic surgery has to be changed to an open
resection during the surgery.