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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Laparoscopic Surgery Works for Colon Cancer

Minimally Invasive Surgery Just as Effective as Standard Surgery

WebMD Health News

April 8, 2004 -- Minimally invasive surgery for colon cancer may be just as effective as more invasive surgery techniques but with a much shorter recovery time, a new study suggests.

Researchers say laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer has been available since 1991, but until now little information was available about the long-term effectiveness of the procedure.

Laparoscopic surgery requires only a few small or "keyhole" incisions, rather than a large incision required by standard surgical techniques. During the procedure, a camera and small surgical instruments are inserted through the small incisions to guide the surgeon in the removal of the tumor.

In one of the first studies to compare the long-term survival of patients who had laparoscopic surgery with those who had conventional surgical tumor removal for colon cancer, researchers found that the minimally invasive technique was as effective as conventional surgery and had the added benefit of a shorter recovery period.

New Option for Colon Cancer Surgery

The study, published in the April 10 issue of The Lancet, involved 403 people with colon cancer who were randomly assigned to have either laparoscopic or conventional open resection of the tumor. The patients were then followed over a 10-year period from 1993 to 2002.

Researchers found that the five-year survival rates were not significantly different between the two groups (76% for laparoscopy and 73% for conventional surgery).

The percentage of patients who were cancer-free five years after surgery was also similar, 75% vs. 78% in the laparoscopic and conventional groups, respectively.

The study showed that surgery time for the minimally invasive procedure was longer, but recovery time after surgery was shorter and significantly better in reducing pain.

But researchers say the benefits of laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer came at a higher cost compared with conventional surgery. They estimated that direct costs from the laparoscopic procedure were about $2,100 more than the traditional surgery.

However, researchers say that difference in cost may become smaller with time due to advances in technology, staff training, and competition.

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